Some amazing ukiyo-e (woodblock) prints depict Komachi in the act of "Washing the Book"- I've posted one above.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Washing the Book, an explanation
For a long time, I've been thinking about creating a blog that can serve several functions at one go: an outlet for whatever is on my mind, a place to write freely, and a way for those who might be interested in similar diverse topics to indulge with me. The title, "Washing the Book," comes from a Japanese kabuki play I saw last week in Tokyo at the world-famous Kabukiza theater. The play was called "Six Poetic Geniuses" (Rokkasen Sugata no Irodori), and featured in particular the character of the legendary beauty, Ono no Komachi. Komachi was a famous poet who lived during the Heian period (ca. 825-900 AD). In the final act, Komachi is overheard reciting one of her own compositions (a waka-poem) prior to a competition. Her evil competitor attempts to disqualify her by writing Komachi's new composition into a book of the classical poems of the past. When confronted with this false evidence, Komachi "washes the book" and the fresh ink swirls off the page, and she is vindicated. The image and its implications had powerful meaning for me as I struggle with writing, with creating something new and indelible, and as I struggle with other peoples' perceptions of me and my work. So this blog in a way is my own attempt to "wash the book," a form of inscription and a form of cleansing.