Oriori no Uta : Poems for All Seasons

Love-possessed, I went

to seek my sister

in the winter night

and the river wind blew cold

carrying the plovers’ cries


Ki no Tsurayuki

From Shūishū, Book IV, Winter .Masaoka Shiki’s Utayomi ni atauru sho (Letters to a anka Poet)was, among other things, a scathing denunciation of the Kokinshū and Tsurayuki, and in it Shiki wrote about this poem: “It is the only one [Tsurayuki wrote] that has any charm or interest. ”Shiki was, however, mistaken: Tsurayuki wrote many other fine poems. This particular one was written to order, to describe a painted screen. Winter, a cold river wind, plovers, and a man hurrying to his lover’s house-the scene Tsurayuki presented here was to become almost an archetype in classical poetry, and, at the same time, one of the first steps on the way to “plovers” becoming a season word for winter. Imogari means “to where my lover is.”