Like her contemporary Murasaki Shikibu, Izumi Shikibu (?976-?) served at the court of Fujiwara no Akiko （藤原彰子）(Shōshi). Also like her, we know only the barest details of Izumi Shikibu’s life, not even her real name (Izumi derives from the fact that her husband, Tachibana no Michisada, was governor of Izumi province). Unlike Murasaki, however, Izumi Shikibu was anything but a solitary intellectual.
She was the daughter of Ōe no Masamune （大江雅致） and his wife, the Daughter of the Governor of Ecchu, Taira no Yasuhira （平保衡）, and when she was approximately 20 married Tachibana no Michisada （橘道貞）, a man about 17 years older than herself. Shortly afterwards, she gave birth to a daughter, Koshikibu no Naishi, who was herself to become an accomplished poet. In 999, Michisada was appointed Governor of Izumi, and Shikibu accompanied him to the provinces on his posting. Life there proved uncongenial to her, so she quickly returned to the capital and began a relationship with Prince Tametaka （為敬皇子） in about 1001. Not surprisingly, this caused a rift with Michisada and she was disowned by her parents as a result. Tametaka seems to have been something of a roue, and fell ill and died in 1002 after ‘too much noctunal wandering’, as the sources say.
Shikibu mourned his passing but promptly began a relationship with Tametaka’s half brother, Prince Atsumichi （敦道皇子） in 1003, and it is the story of this relationship which forms the basis for her diary. The relationship was the source of much gossip at court, especially after she moved into his residence (his principal wife went home to her parents in a fury), and began to accompany him to court functions and festivals. Nevertheless, the relationship lasted until his death (aged 27) in 1007.
Subsequently, Shikibu entered service in Akiko’s court in around 1010, where she is known to have aroused the enmity of Murasaki Shikibu. The following year she married Fujiwara no Yasumasa （藤原保昌） , Fujiwara no Michinaga’s steward, and remained with him for the rest of her life.
Her poetry suggests she had a large number of other lovers (she remarks that ‘my very eyes feel amorous’), but her diary, Izumi Shikibu Nikki, is one of the principal Heian court works and her poetic memoirs, Izumi Shikibu Shū, which exist in various forms, ranging from 647 to 902 poems, remains the most outstanding work by a single poet from the period.
On WakaPoetry.net, the following poems are by Izumi Shikibu:
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SKS IX: 320
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SKS IX: 357