Preface to the First Collection of Rengetsu’s Poetry

There is a nun who passes her days quietly, living at the base of Mount Hiei, surrounded by greenery. The flowing waters of Kamo River cleanse her heart. She digs clay from the riverbank, mixes it with water, and creates many kinds of pottery that she sells to support herself. She also loves poetry. The nun’s name is Rengetsu, “Lotus Moon.” People clamor to buy her simple, unadorned pottery, and to request elegant calligraphy of one of her poems.  Although she remains in the shadows, so many people come to visit her that she feels compelled to move to more and more remote places.

The number of poems collected here is not as large as one would expect. She has composed a large number of poems, many of which are incised on her pottery, but the ones collected here are the most beloved.

I recall the days long ago when Rengetsu appeared in the capital, clad in her black robes and with a serene countenance. I did not want memory of her work to fade way so I visited her at her little hut hidden away in Saga to discuss an edition of her poems. She was decrepit, skin and bones, bent at the hips, but her face remained radiant. She has grown very old, having spent more than forty years, creating beautiful things. Her life has been full. It is my hope that this collection will enable many more people to come to know and love Rengetsu’s poetry.

Composed by Fujiwara Toju on February 1, 1872.

 

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