Poetry of the Heian-period (794–1185), English summary

During the Heian-period the early Chinese influence in Japanese culture gave gradually way to ingenious Japanese tendencies. Nowhere was this seen more clearly than in the field of poetry. The development of kana-syllabry (hiragana and katakana) made it possible for tanka to flourish. Tanka poems were collected in court anthologies, of which as many as eight collections were published during the Heian-period.

Early Heian-period

During the first half of the Heian-period the following four anthologies were published.

1. Kokinshū, beginning of 10th century
2. Gosenshū, 951
3. Shūishū, end of 10th century
4. Goshūishū, 1086

Of these especially the first, Kokinshū, was of uttermost importance to Japanese poetry. It was compiled by the court noble Ki no Tsurayuki, who also wrote his famous preface to it. One of the best known poets of Kokinshū is Ariwara no Narihira, the legendary lover and a notable poet.

Other poets to be mentioned are Sugawara no Michizane (Shūishū) and the two lady poets Ono no Komachi (in several anthologies) and Izumi Shikibu (Goshūishū).

Translations of the poets above have been published in Finnish in several collections, magazines etc.
Read more about them from the blog article.

Later Heian-period

The following four court anthologies were published during this period. (Actually the last were published when Heian-period had already ended, but it is customary to count them in, since most of their poems were from the Heian-period and also they had been edited according to the aesthetic principles of that period.)

5. Kin´yōshū, 1127
6. Shikashū, 1151
7. Senzaishū, 1187
8. Shinkokinshū, 1187

The last, Shinkokinshū, is regarded as one of the three giants of Japanese classical poetry, two others being Man´yōshū and Kokinshū. One of the editors of Shinkokinshū was Fujiwara no Teika (also called Sadaie), one of the most conspicuous figures in Japanese poetry ever. In addition to being a poet and a scholar, he was also a calligrapher, a critic and a copier of manuscripts and his heritage continued to future generations.

Another important poet in Shinkokinshū was the wandering Buddhist priest Saigyō, a free soul, who loved nature, moon and cherry blossoms, but also people. And people loved his poems.

More about the poetry of this period with samples of translations can be found in the blog article.

Ogura hyakunin isshu

This collection of 100 poems, each by a different poet, was compiled by Fujiwara no Teika during the years 1235–1241. It remained his last work since he also died in 1241. The poems cover quite a wide range, the earliest being from the 7th century and the latest from the 13th. In addition to representing the general trends of poetry during those centuries, the collection is also said to reflect the personal taste of its compiler. The collection was published in Finnish in 2005 translated by a group of tanka enthusiasts. (picture)

These poems are very well-known in Japan, partly because they appear in Utagaruta cards. This card game was born in Edo-period (1600–1868) but it is still widely played in Japan, especially in New Year´s time.

Read more in the blog article.

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