Sugawara no Naeme – Kokinshu Challenge

The Kokinshu Challenge is a project rooted in the advancement of my persona. Each day I choose a poem from the Kokinshu A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern Translated and annotated by Laurel Rasplica Rodd with Mary Catherine Henkenius (Kokinshu) and use that poem as an inspiration piece for my own tanka. The Kokinshu is an anthology of waka/tanka compiled in the early 10th century.

My goals for this project are threefold: (1) Return to a habit of writing tanka daily. (2) Study a poetry collection my persona would have owned and would likely have memorized. (3) Focus on creating tanka written in a period style exploring the echoing of lines, use of symbolism, and word play as well as studying the more specific elements of makurakotoba, kakekotoba, honkadori, and engo.

The original scope was to complete reply poems for 100 days, but there is a good possibility I will continue until I have written a response poem to each of the Kokinshu’s 1111 poems. Below are two examples. The entire project can be found at

Day 23
Kokinshu 291 (Fujiwara no Sekio)
no sooner woven
than it tears and falls to shreds–
fragile brocade of
the mountain a weft of dew
on a warp of autumn frost

The delicate warp
of autumn frost cannot hold
shattered in the wind
The mountain’s fleeting brocade
Torn by the passage of time

Day 29
Kokinshu 952 (Anonymous)
in what sort of cave
amidst the crags and boulders
must I dwell so that
no whisper of the sorrows
of this world can reach my ears

I would dwell amongst
the crags and boulders by the
sea so that the waves
may drown out the world’s sorrows
Washing away my troubles

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