e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Seasons of Sacred Celebration: Flowers and Poetry from an Imperial Convent

Cover artWhile attempting to organise some of my books, I came across this one. I’ve owned it for some time and have read it before, but now, re-reading it I was thrilled all over again.

It presents a set of poetry cards from the Diashoji Imperial Convent in Kyoto. Each card is reproduced on its own page and opposite are a Japanese and English version of the poem. The publishers are the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, part of Columbia University, New York.

The poems are waka (also called tanka), a style of short poem with a long history in Japan. Like most Japanese poems they are direct and seemingly simple but say so much:

Could it be that the maple leaf

fathoms the heart of one who feeds the fire …

The book is beautiful – the illustrations are magical; the poems show new ways of looking at flowers and trees; the scholarly introduction and essay are fascinating – I learned an amazing amount; the index to the calligraphers is well organised and useful.

And there is a mystery – who initiated the production of the set of cards and why?

And they are part of women’s Buddhist history and were published to celebrate a great woman, Zen Abbess Mugai Nyodai (1223 – 1298).

What more could one want?

The cover art is from Floating World Editions.

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9 thoughts on “Seasons of Sacred Celebration: Flowers and Poetry from an Imperial Convent

  1. Thank you for your last two post.

    I have sent them to friends who consider them selves book savy..they thank you and so do I.
    Hank

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    • Thank you for passing on the post information and for your comment. Thanks also to your friends for their positive response.

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      • My collegue has given you a response and thanks you for sending it.

        Loved your friends’s statement,”Is this a well-trained memory dropping stuff it doesn’t need or intimations of old age?” I vote for the well-trained memory bit and I hope remember the line for future use!!!

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      • I thank your friend for his comment and you for passing it on. I’m glad he found it potentially useful. I agree that the more positive line is the one to vote for – well trained, yes. Cheers.

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      • A lady friend Betsy from college responds to your “Home” part.
        Her family is all grown and gone and now she lives in an empty house that once was a family home..she writes…

        I think that we all remember favorite homes but when you think of the qualities that make the term “home” give you the warm fuzzy feeling, you can list many. Security, peace, love and you can go on and on. In trying to decide on a favorite home, I have had a difficult time. That seems strange! This maybe my favorite house but right now it is not so much home.

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      • Hi Hank, Thank you sending me this reply and thank you to Betsy for making it. I agree with the distinction between a house and a home. I think that a building can move between being one and the other depending on how it makes you feel. A great change in who lives in it can have that effect.
        Perhaps that’s why so many of us hark back to past homes when seeking the definitive or favourite – they won’t change. I hope that the difficulty of choosing a favourite means you have several lovely homes stored in your memory to choose from

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  2. Thank you for sharing this one. I will have a look at the book.
    Ciao, Francina

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