Fujiwara Teika

Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241) was a Japanese poet and literary theorist of the late Heian and early Kamakura period. He ranks among the greatest poets in the history of Japanese literature. Teika is best known for verse of haunting beauty and rich symbolism. His ideal of Yoen (ethereal beauty) was a unique contribution to the poetic tradition of Japan.

All of these featured poems are taken from Fujiwara Teika's "Superior Poems of Our Time", translated by Robert H. Brower and Earl Miner, a thirteenth century collection of Japanese poetry. The work consists of a short critical essay by Teika and a carefully arranged sequence of eighty-three poems by other hands. His essay discusses the state of poetry in the early thirteenth century and offers advice and standards for aspiring poets; the sequence of poems teaches the same standards by example.

Despite the title, the poems are taken from the full range of Japanese poetry to Teika's time, with emphasis on the preceding three centuries. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the sequence is its unique construction. As the translators demonstrate in their introduction and commentary, the poems are linked by subtle techniques of association and progression into a unified whole that can be read as a single long poem of more than 400 lines.


Fujiwara Teika is featured in Sanbusaku 1 三部作