ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Zack Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   t. joseph dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Eric Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Raud Kennedy
   Bernard Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Marie Lecrivain
   Anne Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Hyatt Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   David McIntire
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
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   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   April Salzano
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   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
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   Rati Saxena
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   Ken Scott
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   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
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   Dahn Shaulis
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   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
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   Lee Sloca
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   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
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   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
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   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
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   Sharieff Walters
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   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
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   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
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   Jessica Wilson
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   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
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   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
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   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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Keiko Amano
November 2003
   

 

Murasai Shikibu

    Many scholars translated Genji Monogatari, a thousand-year-old novel written by Murasaki Shikibu, into modern Japanese language, but Yosano Akiko was the first translator/poet/writer who completed all fifty-four chapters. Akiko also wrote an essay about Murasaki Shikibu.
     According to the essay, Murasaki was the seventh generation from Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu (775-826), who was a minister of the state. He was also a poet. Fujiwara no Kaneyasu was her great-grandfather who also held a cabinet post. He was known for his great talent in creating poems, and he also wrote stories. Murasaki grew up in a literary family although most people who descended from the court members or worked with them were literate, and writing poems was their serious hobby.
     Murasaki’s father, Tametoki, held a less important post than his ancestors. He wrote poems and learned Confucianism from a top scholar. He was assigned to a post outside the court, first as the head of Echizen province and later of Echigo province. 
     The scholars disagreed on how many brothers and sisters Murasaki had, but they seemed to agree she had an older brother whose name was Nobunori. I imagined that young Murasaki played with paper and brush in the same room while the father taught Nobunori how to read and write.
     In The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu, Murasaki described that her father Tametoki said, “I wish if she were a boy.” I imagined that she hovered over her paper on the floor and succeeded in writing a phrase while her older brother struggled.
     Murasaki wrote poems and short stories before she joined the royal court and started to write Genji Monogatari. Murasaki Shikibu is her nickname, which was naturally formed while she wrote the novel.
     Murasaki meant purple, which was one of the characters’ names, and Shikibu meant the ceremony division relating to her father’s role at the court. She gained no formal name since the title her husband Noritaka held wasn’t high enough. Her mother’s formal name was 堅子 Kenshi.
     As we can imagine, Murasaki was a lady of letters and thinker. She probably had opportunities to read and reread The Lotus Sutra as she mentioned about it time to time throughout the novel. She must have learned reading and writing by copying the sutra and Confucian and other classical Chinese and Japanese books in her house.
     In the Nara period before Murasaki was born, Chinese had invented the wood-cut printing, and Japanese began using it, but to make own copy of books, brushstrokes were still the most popular way. It was a good practice to improve reading and writing by making copies, and I think copying itself has meditational value.

     Murasaki’s husband Noritaka fell ill and died a year and half after they married. They produced one daughter. From Murasaki’s point of view, their relationship probably wasn’t love at first sight, but Noritaka was a lighthearted and passionate man. They quarreled through their letters, which deepened their love for each other.
     In her journal, Murasaki revealed that Noritaka showed her letter/s to other people, including his first wife. Murasaki was furious. She demanded Noritaka return the letter. He complied.
     After such lively exchanges followed by the birth of a daughter, Noritaka’s death devastated Murasaki. They were married only a year and half. She wrote about how sad and confused she felt. I feel her sorrows.
     After Noritaka died, Michinaga zoomed in and persuaded Murasaki to join the royal court. He was already a powerful man then, serving Emperor Ichijo. She didn’t want to join, but she could no longer say no to persistent Michinaga.

     Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1028) had four daughters, whom he managed to marry off strategically in the royal court. When Murasaki arrived at the court of Emperor Ichijo, Michinaga’s oldest daughter Shoshi was about seventeen. Michinaga wanted Shoshi to produce a prince so that as the grandfather of the prince, Michinaga could strengthen his position and become the head of state as well as the Fujiwara clan.
     Emperor Ichijo (980-1011) had Fujiwara-no Teishi (977-1001) as his empress, and they got along very well. Teishi was one of Michinaga’s nieces. Her father was the head of state and Michinaga’s oldest brother.
     Teishi was an intelligent and fun-loving young woman. She seemed to be an exceptionally talented person who, together with Emperor Ichijo, brought their many poetry gatherings to success. Like many court documents, we can read the meeting records including the names of the attendees and their poems they produced. Her mother was a Chinese classics scholar, and her father loved drinking and musical performances.
     Someone told me, “Just because her parents were talented doesn’t mean she was.” That person had a point, but imagine the situation of a thousand years ago. If parents didn’t know how to read and write, never seen mother plunged in deep thought and perhaps talked about the classical teachings, and if she wasn’t exposed to the fun-loving life style of her father, such qualities in her had to come from somewhere else.
     Seishonagon, another female author of the time, worked for Empress Teishi and wrote about Teishi in Pillow Book. She was a member of the Emperor Ichijo team, so to speak, to energize the literary activity in the court. And setting up a theme and hosting the gatherings regularly required artistic ability plus intelligence to keep the interest of all the members.
     To entice the emperor to his daughter, Michinaga hired Murasaki, a counterpart to Seishonagon, to help Shoshi become more attractive to the emperor and the court since physical beauty wasn’t enough to attract the emperor.
     So, Michinaga’s wish became true, and Murasaki at last joined the court as I mentioned before, and about three years into Murasaki’s service, Shoshi delivered her first son. Even though Teishi had delivered the first prince, Michinaga pushed his grandson to be next emperor. Nobody could stop powerful Michinaga by this time.
     Teishi’s father, Michitaka, who had been the head of state, died in 995. Michitaka was the oldest brother of Michinaga. The position of the next head of state went to Michikane who was another Michinaga’s older brother. But Michikane suddenly died, so it became Michinaga’s turn. I don’t know exact causes of their deaths, but they didn’t die from old age.
     Without her father’s strong support, Teishi and Emperor Ichijo lost stability in the court. This was during the Heian period. Men in the court ruled and maneuvered all the positions while their daughters had no say in the matters. Women were used for political purposes.
     Michinaga was extra ambitious. Because of fierce power struggle in the court, much pressure was put on Emperor Ichijo and Teishi, and a series of bizarre incidents followed.
     Teishi’s brothers plotted against the former Emperor Kazan. One of Teishi’s brothers mistakenly thought Kazan had started to liaise with the woman who belonged to him. It turned out to be untrue. The woman the former emperor was meeting secretively was the woman’s sister. But, being shocked to find her two brothers’ crime, Teishi who was pregnant at the time jumped into a role of nun on a whim. She didn’t consult with her husband, Emperor Ichijo. In my view, she should have waited and asked Emperor Ichijo his advice. We should never rush to our decision. Think first and discuss the problem before acting is what this teaches Japanese women.
     Later Emperor Ichijo resurrected her as his empress, but a nun returning to her role as empress was unheard of. She wasn’t allowed back inside the court. If you asked me, this was unjust. After all, he was the emperor at the time, and their political system wasn’t democracy.
     Anyway, Teishi delivered Emperor Ichijo’s first prince and stayed in a small house outside the palace, to which the emperor commuted at night. I didn’t research on this detail, but my instinct told me his visits were most likely daily except the nights Michinaga pressured him to sleep with Shoshi. So, Emperor Ichijo left the palace after the sundown and returned before the sunrise to avoid people’s attention. They produced two more girls.
     Imagine the high pressure put on the emperor. He was severely restricted from his rights and freedom as a human being. Michinaga exercised total control. Teishi died at the age of twenty-four, and Emperor Ichijo passed away when he was thirty-one, leaving a letter of dissatisfaction about Michinaga’s rule.
     The imperial palace was a small community. Michinaga and Shoshi lived nearby in the same compound through those incidents and scandals. That was also the period Murasaki wrote Genji Monogatari.

     Yosano Akiko wrote that Murasaki probably wrote all fifty-four chapters of Genji Monogatari in about three years while serving Shoshi at the imperial court. As I mentioned before, Murasaki’s role was to support Shoshi’s education, and later Murasaki wrote to celebrate the lives of Shoshi and her baby prince.
     How did Michinaga feel about Murasaki then? We could read it in her diary. For example, she wrote that Michinaga came into her room one day while she was away and stole her hidden manuscript. He didn’t respect her property, which meant to me he didn’t respect her enough.
     The following is my translation of the fifty-seventh section of The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu, with a bit of my narration and interpretation.
***
     Showing the manuscript of Genji Monogatari, Murasaki has been teaching Shoshi, who had given birth to a prince. Shoshi asks Murasaki a few questions about the story.
     Michinaga walks into the room. He doesn’t ask for Murasaki’s permission. He glances toward the manuscript and jokes around. Then he grabs a sheet of paper that had been lying on the floor with plums on it, which were left there to dry. Michinaga writes on the paper as follows and hands it to Murasaki.
     You’re known to be a playgirl so you probably wouldn’t leave any man alone without making a pass at him.
     Murasaki reads it and replies probably in writing on the same piece of the paper as follows.
     No one has made a pass at me yet, so who spread the rumor that I’m a playgirl? How horrible! She didn’t write, “I haven't made any passes at anyone so who spread the rumor?” because, to her, making a pass was a thing only men would do, not women. I’m sure it was impossibility she would do such thing.
     Murasaki’s journal continues.
    When I slept in the room next to the bridge, someone knocked on my door quite persistently. I felt threatened by it so I didn’t respond throughout the night. The following morning, Michinaga wrote to me as follows.
     “All through the night, like a water fowl’s cries, I knocked on your door again and again many times.
     In reply, she writes:
     “You knocked on my door hard like an emergency, but as you wrote, because it was a water fowl’s cries, if I had opened my door I would have regretted it.

             ***

     Good for her! I’m completely behind Murasaki on what she wrote in the last two lines. Michinaga probably couldn’t have as interesting literary conversations with other women as well as men in the court as he could with Murasaki.      Hikaru Genji, a main character of the novel Genji Monogatari, was a bit like Michinaga, so he often made visits to Murasaki and tried to find out what was happening to Genji in the progress of the story. He was a manipulative, greedy, narcissistic politician, but cute.
     If he wanted to, Michinaga could write to Seishonagon, who wrote Pillow Book, or talk with passionate Izumi Shikibu, who wrote a collection of essays. But I think, from the start, Genji Monogatari captured the imagination of Michinaga and the rest of the audience.
     Murasaki didn’t write about this, but I could sense her reluctance to Michinaga because he had multiple wives, and they lived nearby. It doesn’t matter what the common practice of the period or which country it happened. Polygamy is women’s enemy.
     Murasaki had strong feelings for her deceased husband. Did Michinaga understand that? If he did, did he let her know that? How could she switch her precious heart for Noritaka to manipulative Michinaga just like that? Noritaka died too early before she really got to know him. I’m sure power-hungry Michinaga had multiple women to promote himself in the court. Murasaki was cautious to avoid being mixed up in a scandal with him. After all, she became the center of attention at the court as the author of Genji’s stories.
     As he planned it, Michinaga’s grandsons became emperors. Teishi’s son was denied of his rights to succeed for he lost his mother-side strong support. I’ve read a passage regarding this prince issue and Teishi’s sad fate that Shoshi showed her small resistance toward her brother when he came and demanded her something, which I forgot what that was, but she clearly didn’t comply with his request.
    I thought Shoshi didn’t mind her son become an emperor, but not before Teishi’s son. Both Murasaki and Shoshi couldn’t defend Teishi, but I could tell that they wanted to protect her if they could.
     Michinaga became practically the kanpaku, head of the state, although not formally. He wrote his diary from age thirty-three to fifty-six. Today both Genji Monogatari and his diary are national treasures. Michinaga held many poetry readings and writer workshops at the court. He was flamboyant and his writings were said to contain many errors. In the literary skills, Murasaki was obviously superior to Michinaga in writing fiction, which takes much thinking and efforts.
     Although I do not support power hungry people like Michinaga, it’s true that with his support, Genji Monogatari was commissioned and copies made. It has been translated into over twenty languages and read globally as the world’s oldest psychological novel.

     Looking at Yosano Akiko’s interpretation on Murasaki’s thought in her diary, I thought Akiko was very passionate and went after her love with force. Yosano Tekkan was a married man and had children when Akiko fell in love with him, and she knew his family situation.
     Murasaki wasn’t like Akiko or Izumi Shikibu who was also well known to have expressed their free unrestrictive love without consideration to others. Although Noritaka, Murasaki’s husband, was already married and with children, the marriage norm in the tenth or eleventh century was different from today. But even if Murasaki had been born in the nineteenth century like Akiko, I didn’t think Murasaki would’ve behaved as Akiko did like stealing someone’s husband.

     Murasaki was compelled to write what was on her mind about her husband and herself to reflect and treasure her memories. In Genji Monogatari, she painted Genji to be an ideal man although he was a playboy.
     In the chapter, Suetsumuhana, Genji falls in love with Suetsumuhana, knowing she is no longer in a good financial situation. She lost her parents, and Genji finds out she isn’t a beauty. In fact, she has a long elephant nose. They met before but it was at night, and nights are dark.
     Despite Suetsumuhana’s financial difficulty and elephant nose, Genji remains loyal to his lover and takes care of her, visiting her into her old age, the narrator insinuates. Murasaki filtered the memory of her love and wrote all the tenderly emotions Genji showered on the female characters. Through the story of life and death and characterization of Genji and other characters, I think the novel influenced the ways of thinking among us. I’m sure Japan has many deadbeat husbands or dads even though we had the novel for a thousand years, but to compared with other countries, I think, the number probably is less because of the novel. I credit this to Murasaki Shikibu.

copyright 2017 Keiko Amano