This was written for one of my classes this semester. The class is titled Women’s Voices in Japanese Literature. The assignment was to compare/contrast two poems from The Tale of Genji, one of the staples of classic Japanese literature.
There are many tanka poems in The Tale of Genji. These short poems, each consisting of a total of thirty-one syllables in five lines, form the most important conversations in the story. They are used in place of dialogue when the characters’ emotions are strongest; each poem bursts forth from the character, expressing his or her situation or emphasizing a point the way songs do in a good musical. These poems help shape the story for the reader, regardless of whether it is being read in English or Japanese. Since the poems represent dialogue, they often have more impact when all the poems in a dialogue are considered together.(more…)