Two Hundred Poem Sequences

two-100-poem-sequences-cover-2500x1667-2016-11-29The hyakushu uta (‘hundred-poem sequence’), or hyakushu for short, as its name suggests, was a series of one hundred poems composed by a single poet. A poet might decide to compose one hundred poems all at once on the same topic as a test of skill and stamina; or, he or she might select one hundred poems from amongst his or her previous works as a demonstration of their talent. Hundred poem sequences could be for personal consumption, for presentation to a more experienced poet for criticism and advice, or presented as gifts to superiors. This book contains two hundred-poem sequences, Entō onhyakushu by emperor Gotoba (1180-1239; r. 1183-1198), dating from the early 1220s, and Keiun hyakushu, by the monk Keiun (?1293-?1369), from a century or so later. Both are by poets renowned for their skills, but have different characteristics. Entō onhyakushu reflects the immediate circumstances and environment in which Gotoba found himself at the time, and so is an example of a poet’s response to his situation; Keiun hyakushu is more a demonstration of the poet’s skills and a considered exercise in anthologizing. Both, however, contain many fine individual poems and reflect the styles of waka of their time. The poems are presented in romanised transcription and English translation, and accompanied by annotations to provide readers with background information about the poetic expressions, persons and locations they mention. There is also an introduction covering the hundred poem sequence as a poetic form, biographies of Gotoba and Keiun, and the circumstances in which they composed these sequences.

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'Simply moving and elegant'