In my limited experience of Japanese poetry, Saigyo, a monk writing during the 12th century, is by far my favorite poet. A few selections, again from Carter’s Traditional Japanese Poetry:


On a roadside
next to a clear flowing stream
in a willow’s shade
I stopped–for a moment, I thought–
but ended up staying on


It creates a heart
even in those among us
who think of themselves
as indifferent to all things–
this first wind of autumn.

Spring. Written when people were composing on the topic “Blossoms Falling in a Dream” at the home of the Kamo Virgin:

In a dream I saw
the winds of spring scattering
the cherry blossoms–
and after I woke, the sound
was still rustling in my breast.

Winter. “Leaves falling at dawn”:

Raindrops, I first thought
as I lay awake in my bed–
but what I heard
was the unbroken patter
of leaves giving in to storm winds.

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