Thursday, March 04, 2010

First Class of Workshop with Kimiko Hahn

So the first class was on Tuesday, as will be the second, third, fourth etc. But I've been trying to write one of these damn zuihitsus, and so have not blogged about the class. We read four examples from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, Heian period 794-1185, translated by Ivan Morris. They look like list-poems, except that each item can be as long as a paragraph or a page.

In "In Spring It Is the Dawn"Sei Shonagon describes her favorite time of the day in each season. In spring it is the dawn. In summer the nights. In autumn the evenings. In winter the early mornings. Another zuihitsu is on Elegant Things, a list which includes the surprising item of duck eggs. Of all the Things that Give a Hot Feeling, the Captain in attendance at the Imperial Games is, to me, the hottest. Sei Shonagon, a young children-hating aristocrat herself, bitches about the common people, the elderly, and pregnant women in Unsuitable Things. Here is a slice of her scorn:

A woman with ugly hair wearing a robe of white damask.
Hollyhock worn in frizzled hair.
Ugly handwriting on red paper.
Snow on the houses of common people. This is especially regrettable when the moonlight shines down on it.
A plain wagon on a moonlit night; or a light auburn ox harnessed to such a wagon.
A woman who, thought well past her youth, is pregnant and walks along panting. It is unpleasant to see a woman of a certain age with a young husband; and it is most unsuitable when she becomes jealous of him because he has gone to visit someone else.
An elderly man who has overslept and who wakes up with a start; or a greybeard munching some acorns that he has picked. An old woman who eats a plum, and, finding it sour, puckers her toothless mouth.
A woman of the lower classes dressed in a scarlet trouser-skirt. The sight is all too common these days.
A handsome man with an ugly wife.
An elderly man with a black beard and a disagreeable expression playing with a little child who has just learnt to talk. . . . 

2 comments:

Patricia Markert said...

Jee, Say hello to Kimiko for me. She and I were in Iowa together many years ago. I like the sound of this form, and look forward to reading what you do with it. I certainly understand your being strapped for time!

Jee Leong Koh said...

I will tell Kimiko you say hi. The poetry world is a village.