Copyright 1999, 2010 Risa Bear and stony run press. These poems first appeared at http://risashome.blogspot.com. ISBN 0-9645574-3-6
Hyakunin isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each) is an anthology of one hundred tanka (31-syllable poems) compiled by Fujiwara no Teika in the year 1235 C.E. It is one of the best-known works in Japan, and has been translated into English many times. The present collection consists of original poem/commentaries written over the course of several days to explore my feelings in response to the Japanese poems. The model for this is the series of prints by Hokusai, "One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each As Explained by the Old Nurse," in which the artist explores the poems not so much in relation to their original setting as in relation to the artist's personal sense of universal experience.
The poetic method in this response is not syllable counting as in the original tanka, but achieves a similar compression in a manner appropriate to English through the use of mostly two-stressed lines, except where one stress carries the thought. The arrangement into, mostly, tercets (three-line stanzas) is purely arbitrary. Yes, the poems are somewhat autobiographical; but of this I will say no more; every human heart holds secrets.
To set these poems by an Oregonian together with those to which they respond, I have provided the Japanese poems with MacCauley's translation (1917).