Monday, October 7, 2013

Sept. Talk Saigyo the Poet by Bonnie McClure

In September, Bonnie McClure spoke to us about the medieval poet Saigyo and his impact on the subsequent poetry in Japan.   Bonnie, one of our long time members, is getting her masters in Japanese literature at UW in Seattle.

Saigyo (西行)1118-1190, lived just as Japan was changing from the sedate Heian period, where poetry was written without moving off the futon, to a period where poets began to roam the countryside, capturing thier impressions, and opening up new themes.

Many of his poems are famous and Bonnie shared with us some of her translations.


しばしとてこそ立ち止まりつれ (SKKS 262)

 By the roadside
A willow’s shade
With clear water flowing:
Thinking “just for a moment…”
I stopped and stood

I particularly liked another one, where, although a priest, rather than wanting to have his final rest facing the Buddha, he preferred to be buried under a cherry tree.


その二月の望月のころ (SKS 77)

My wish:
to die in spring
under the blossoms—
At that full moon
 of Kisaragi month

Ways his poetry foreshadowed the medeival literary era included
a more serious interest in Buddhism, close observation of nature, an honest (raw) tone, and a high presence of self/narration.   Major themes of his poetry included travel, reclusion, conflict with religious resolve, and cherry blossoms with the moon.  Japan would have been a poorer place without him. 

For further reading in English she suggested Burton Watson's translation "Saigyo, Poems of a Mountain Home."

 Thanks Bonnie.

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