Jane Hirshfield on Ono no Komachi

“Wash the cheater’s book and his lies will fade away…”

Award-winning poet, essayist, and translator Jane Hirshfield tells us about ancient Japanese poet Ono no Komachi, a woman whose work feels so contemporary that it speaks to Jane as if it is her own experience. Komachi is one of the very few women in the Japanese Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry. She wrote brilliantly with a mastery of language that made her a legend in her own time... and for the next two millennia. Jane Hirshfield brings to life the work of this astonishing woman.


Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight books of poetry, two essay collections, and four books collecting and co-translating the work of poets from the past, including The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu. Hirshfield’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has been a visiting poet at U.C. Berkeley, Stanford, a UCSF neuroscience program, and the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Poetry, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, and eight editions of The Best American Poems. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Featured Woman

Ono no Komachi

Ono no Komachi (c. 825 – c. 900 AD) was a Japanese waka poet, one of the Rokkasen — the six best waka poets of the early Heian period. She was renowned for her unusual beauty and counts among the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals.

Portraits: Court Lady at Her Writing Table from the Spring Rain Collection (Harusame shū), vol. 3 by Yashima Gakutei (1820s). Two from the series Stylish Parodies of the Six Poetic Immortals (Fūryū yatsushi rokkasen) by Chōbunsai Eishi (1790s). Book: “The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan” by Ono no Komachi (Author), Izumi Shikibu (Author), Jane Hirshfield (Translator), Mariko Aratani (Translator).