The Preface to A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry (古今和歌集仮名序)

Kokin Wakashu Kanajo (The Preface to "A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry") is a preface to Kokin Wakashu (A Collection of Ancient and Modern Japanese Poetry). Its title, 'Kanajo,' is based on the fact that it was written in Kana (the Japanese syllabary). The author of the preface was KI no Tsurayuki, and it was the first full-scale treatise on waka (thirty-one-syllable poems). It is also known as a pioneering study of poetry.


The preface explains the nature of waka in the opening sentence, followed by the history of waka, and then divided into six waka groups, each of which is explained further. The preface illustrates how desirable waka should be, mentioning the two names of Great Poets, KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro and YAMABE no Akahito in addition to listing six famous modern poets (lit. Six Immortal Poets). In the final section, the preface refers to the process of compiling the anthology and ends with the future prospects of waka.


The seeds in peoples' minds grow into tens of thousands of words, and that is the essence of Japanese poetry. People in the world are likely to express what they have in mind every time they see and hear things as well as when they experience many things under various situations.
How could they refrain from making poems when they listen to nightingales in the blossoms or frogs in the water?
It is poetry that, without any strength, shakes the heaven and the earth, makes invisible spirits moved, makes a man and woman intimate and eases a warrior's violent soul.

[Original Japanese]