I just saw this thread and I definitely want to join. I’m in a kyogi karuta club (on hiatus right now because of current events). I’ll be joining late since I need to order the book and that will probably take a while. (I know my karuta sensei owns it and I wish I could borrow it from her).
Okay, so here we go. I chose #5 because I thought the manga was hilarious xD
奥山に 紅葉ふみ分け なく鹿の 聲きく時ぞ 秋は悲しき (猿丸大夫)
It's not a lot, because of course I chose the one with barely any information to be found, but here goes:
As is mentioned in the book, there is not much information to be found about the poet. It seems that the poem in question was submitted to a poetry contest held by Prince Koresada in 893, which earned 猿丸 a legendary status as a waka poet of the Heian period. He is also a member of 三十六歌仙, the Thirty Six Poetic Sages (a group of Japanese poets of the Asuka, Nara and Heian periods, selected by Fujiwara no Kinto as exemplars of Japanese poetic ability).
There are some suspicions as to his identity; some believe him to have never existed, others believe him to have been Prince Yamashiro no Oe. However, considering said prince committed suicide in 643, that would either mean his poem was submitted post mortem, or his death was a clever way to finally live in peace and leave the shackles of prince hood behind. Who knows, right?
As for the poem itself, it seems to be surprisingly hard to interpret. It is unclear whether the one doing the 踏む-ing is actually the deer or the poet himself. Based on the speculation that the poet is an aristocrat, and walks in the woods aren’t often part of an aristocrat’s day to day life, whereas watching deer do so seems much more likely, there seems to be a higher chance of the former being true.
Deer have enjoyed the privilege of being an integral part of Japanese poetry since early times, often symbolising sadness or melancholy, as in this particular example.
Fun fact for you: The zodiac animals are often depicted as poets, whose work is then judged by none other than our very own deer. I thought it was interesting that an potentially non-existent, but most definitely anonymous poet writes about an animal that judges other poems.
Obviously, feel free to add to it or tell me how wrong I am whenever. I like history, but I’m really not great at it, and I get easily confused, so chances are I’ll be slightly off on some points.
Sounds good to me, but the 意味 section makes it pretty clear that it’s the deer doing the trampling.
I did find one resource that said some commentators have hypothesised that the deer is a metaphor for an actual human woman, but I confess I’m not entirely sure whether walking through the mountains crying for a man is someting that women typically get up to.
On a side note, if you want to hear any of the poems read out in proper style, I found this playlist:
Yes! I kept wondering how people would read those. The introduction mentioned that the reading on the left is the modern kana version, but I wondered if it was an approximation or if it’s really how it’s supposed to be said. Sounds like it’s how it is said… at least in modern days
So, this kinda sing-song style is how the poems are read in karuta competitions - it’s also why the 下の句 section is read twice in each video (because in official competitions, after everyone’s sitting down again, the reader re-reads the 下の句 section before drawing the next card). Think part of the idea behind this playlist is that if you randomise them, you can play an actual game with them. Also, the poem in the first video of the playlist is not one of the 百人一首 - it’s read at the beginning of karuta competitions to help the players get used to the reader’s reading style.
Honestly don’t know if the poems are read in this style outside of karuta.
田子の浦に うち出でてみれば 白妙の
Written by Yamabe no Akahito. His birth and death years are unknown but he was active between 724 and 736 as a court poet of Emperor Shomu.
Considered to be one of Japan’s greatest poets he receive many accolades including a god of poetry and he has been referred to as a priest of poetry and sanshi no mon, alongside Kakinomoto no Hitomaro who appear as one of the Thirty-six Immortals of Poetry.
I cannot find a translation of 山枝の門 but it appears to be an accolade.
The book says that of the Immortals he is the only one who wrote about nature predominantly.
The poem itself is fairly simple and describes Yamabe’s travels along the coastline of eastern Japan. This one takes place in Tagono-ura in modern day Shizuoka.
Apparently most poets in Yamabe’s time wrote mostly about western Japan and he was one of the few writing about eastern Japan and he was one of the first, if not the first, to describe the peak of Fuji which he does in this poem.
One thing I particularly liked about this poem is the word 白妙 which means white cloth but it is used here as a poetic device to describe the peak as pure white. This evocative imagery made me think of the iconic peak as been “dressed in snow”. This in turn made me think of the song ‘Weatherman’ by Tori Amos which shares similar imagery.
Edit: are we doing vocabulary lists or no?
This sort of imagery reminds me of the song Amagigoe by Sayuri Ishikawa where she takes her cheating lover to a remote pass and says she’d rather kill him than have him cheat on her.
So I think there is a precedent in Japanese culture for women to bemoan their troubles in wild locales.
There’s also the song Jusui Negai by Tokyo Incident with a similar vibe of a woman expressing her emotions in the wilderness.
Yeah I did see that. Found it strange as well when I found it on a blog, but I went back to have a look and in the poem itself there is no way to tell. I do think it makes more sense for it to be the deer, but I actually think it depends on your interpretation. Maybe in the book they went with one option only to make it less confusing?
Stranger things have happened. Maybe the lady in question needed to get away to clear her head a bit, ended up in the woods and served as inspiration for a poem
On another note, is it weird that I’m keeping a word document with everyone’s contribution (for now anyway)?
I think that’s a really good idea. I’ve currently only read 3 of the 5 poems so far. So I’ll be doing the same I think.
Hello, everyone! I finally got my book a couple of days ago, but didn’t vote and won’t be able to help with the research for a week or two due to some family issues @@
But I do plan on joining eventually! For now I’ll be reading along, looking at your research (there’s a lot of interesting stuff already **) and commenting if I have something to say~
Just join in when you’ve got everything boxed off!
I don’t know the context, but a while ago I found Basho’s 古池や read in a similar way. Most of the haiku I found on youtube were similarly sung, so I am assuming there is a wider tradition of it. Here’s the link:
I also found the HI poems sung with string quartet accompaniment, but I think this is more about setting poems to music in a way similar to the western tradition (that was a big thing in the Romantic era right?). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ge4btLiUhmA
This strikes me as the kind of ambiguity that Japanese poetry enjoys producing. I think your guess as to the book’s reasoning is a good one.
Aha! 詩吟 in that video’s very title is the thing I should have been looking for! It is called Shigin! According to Wikipedia it may have been brought to Japan around the 5th century, but according to Japan Today it is an Edo invention. Encyclopedia Britannica corroborates a late-Tokugawa origin but there seem to have been various poetry singing styles that predate it such as rōei in the Heian period.
This is a super cool detail that will definitely help this one stick in my mind!
Glad it helps!
While going through the thread to see what there already was in information on the 1st poem, I thought I might as well compile the relevant posts in the OP.
I’m quite sure we weren’t really sure how exactly we want to compile these. Please do share your opinion on whether this works or not - or which parts work and which don’t - so we can find an actually useful solution.
I think that works pretty well unless someone comes up with a better idea.
If we are wanting a vocab list making I’m happy to create an editable google spreadsheet later today where people can add the vocabulary for their chosen poem as they go through their chapter.
I’m not sure if it’s needed or not though because the book seems easy enough to read.
Let me know what you think.
Equally perhaps the document mentioned by @Kyayna could be made into a collaborative Google doc?
I’ve been pretty comfortable looking up words on my own because the readings are relatively short, but I’d be happy to contribute to a vocab sheet if others want it.
What I’m curious about is how is everyone dealing with the Classical Japanese grammar? I find it generally intelligible but I’m definitely missing some nuance and want to do some more serious research into that, and that might be useful to have as a reference in such a vocabulary sheet. The first thing I’ve noticed which I picked up before in haiku is が having possessive force (for example in the first poem), but verbs and adjectives act a fair bit differently in the 7th century.
Well we will gauge interest with a poll and see what people want for the vocabulary list.
As for the grammar that could be interesting. Going forward we can provide more information about the classical grammar in our research reports and I’m happy to revisit poem 4 to go through the grammar.
I’ll be honest I read the original poem and then focussed on the modern interpretation. So I’ll be very willing to go back to the original text.
Would you like a vocabulary list?
I’m not sure whether you meant sharing mine and then adding to it as we go along or creating something similar to that, but if it’s the former, I’m obviously happy to share (although I’m not sure how useful it really is. There’s not much on there yet, since we’re only in week one, and honestly there’s not much to it, I just copy the initial research and that’s pretty much it).
Personally I don’t think it would be much different than what @Belerith edited in the OP.
That being said, for the sake of decluttering, I’d actually personally prefer weekly threads that was discussed above at some point (I say that, but I do realise it always ends up being quite a lot of work for the one making them). Still linking the individual poems in every OP, but just a thread per week so it’s a bit cleaner. Especially if there’s a lot of discussion going on, it might make sense. Not sure what everyone else thinks though. If I remember correctly we never did come to a clear consensus, but I might be wrong.
I wonder if the work can be minimised by keeping a templated of the OP above or a template of whatever format the first post will take and then updating it as we go?
I would also prefer threads for five poems at a time and that way it would keep the threads more linear and easy to follow in case someone joins late or is reading along retrospectively.