Purportedly by Munetaka Shinnou
Ink on paper
Heian period/11th century
Tokyo National Museum
A poetry match (J. utaawase) is a game-like event in which short poems (J. tanka) on a set theme are composed separately by two competing teams, the Right and the Left. The Poems from the Poetry Match Held by the Empress in the Kanpyô Era (J. Kanpyô no oontoki kisai no miya utaawase) is the transcription of a poetry contest sponsored by the Empress Dowager during the reign of Emperor Uda (867-931, r. 887-897). It contains a total of two hundred poems, twenty on each of five traditional topics-spring, summer, autumn, winter, and love.
This copy was part of the fourth scroll in the Poetry Match in Ten Scrolls (J. Jikkanbon utaawase), also known as the "Ten Scrolls Version" (J. Jikkanbon), which was passed down in the Konoe clan. The Poetry Match in Ten Scrolls was compiled in the middle of the Heian period (794-1185) by Imperial Advisor Fujiwara no Yorimichi (992-1074), but the text was never completed; the forty-six poetry matches in ten scrolls were originally copied and passed down through the generations as a preliminary draft.
Tradition ascribes the calligraphy of this copy to Prince Munetaka (1242-1274). Whether Munetaka or someone else, the calligrapher transcribed and edited thirty-six of the extant forty-three poems from this poetry collection and is thought to have been the figure most actively involved in the compilation of this manuscript. The poems are broken up into two lines, and the calligraphy is marvelously energetic and at the same time extremely sophisticated.