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First Word

Phew! Another skin oí my teeth Roundtable! You wouldnít think that writing a letter once a month would be so difficult and yet, I always feel like Iím scrambling! Itís not that I donít have things to say or want to share with you. Itís actually just finding a quiet moment to put those thoughts down on paper. Still, I know I donít have much to say online, but itís important that I communicate. As it is, Iíve had several things to talk about with Oshi this month and still havenít gotten to it! Even my phone calls to Rhiannon are at an all time low! The cause of all this? Aprilís been a busy, busy month, of course. No more for me than all of us, I realize. Somehow you all seem to handle it better than me though.

Unfortunately, an unanticipated financial setback forced me to work through this weekend instead of going up to Sacred Stoneís Novice Tourney on Saturday as I had planned. Iím sorry that it resulted in additional strain to the Household. The Order of the Sacred Stone, of which Rhiannon, Oshi, Adeliza, Una, Sine, and myself are Companions was sponsoring a luncheon for Their Excellencies and Their Majesties at the event with House Corvus heading up the food preparation. No, Iím sure that my presence wasnít really necessary, but I hate leaving everyone in a lurch. I was especially looking forward to plotting something grand with Oshi. Instead, Iíll simply have to hear about it come Monday which is nowhere near as much fun. Also, I know that Rhiannon is the event. Hopefully, that will go well! Both Signy and Otto are Novice-eligible rapier fighters. Perhaps one managed to take the prize! Iíll miss seeing them contend.

Up until this weekend, most of my plans had gone all right. The monthís opening SCA event for me, Atlantian Coronation, went very well and I had so much fun sitting around and visiting with my poetic Muse, Duchess Niobe. As always, she was the very epitome of graciousness and I would like House Corvus to adopt some of her sense of style and hospitality. I participated as a judge in the new Poeta Atlantiae competition which was great fun and even managed to finish up two scrolls for TRM Amalric and Caiaís last Court. Her Majesty presented me with a lovely garter thanking me for my work on Their behalf this reign, which I really appreciated.

Regarding spending time at events, our new chapel pavilion may be of assistance in this as I think itís increasingly important that we have a better field presence at some of the events we attend. I recall us discussing a day shade once on the e-list. Sine usually keeps tabs on this sort of thing; maybe she can enlighten us. I realize we have our hands full with Household projects and Iím not suggesting we tackle a shade any time soon. But I wouldnít mind having a plan ďin development.Ē Definitely a post-Pennsic sort of thing.

The following week saw the regular, monthly meeting of the Hidden Mountain Scriptorium, which I host at my apartment here in Charleston. We get together on the first Tuesday of the month for dinner and then a workshop on scroll production. This month we worked on prize scrolls for Hidden Mountainís Baronial Birthday which Iím autocratting on May 19-21. The very next night, I met with my head cook and M.I.C. and managed to crank out the Acorn cover I wanted to do for the May issue. Sure enough, it had a medieval Indian theme which ties into the event theme nicely. Now, if I can only get that elephant built!

I headed up to Aire Fauconís Inn on the Road event the following weekend and had a great time emceeing their ĎUgly Bar Maidí contest again this year. Ladies Alys and Una took on the autocratting and cooking respectively and our own Lord William made just far-too-convincing a barmaid. I think his only shortcoming was that he was too attractive. But, of course, heís House Corvus and we do have to carry that burden of being attractive.

The week that followed had me scrambling to finish up all sorts of projects before heading to Orlando and the SCA Board of Directorís meeting. Giuseppe joined me at grandmomís house and together we drove down to the meeting on Saturday morning. Iím not sure just how interesting many people would find such a thing, but I, for one, love seeing how the SCA works and meeting the people who make some of the broadest decisions in our organization. It was illuminating. And, in some cases, it was just plain fun seeing some of my Trimarian friends and meeting those B.o.D. members whom I didnít know. An extra treat was being there to see Atlantiaís own Mistress Keilyn Fitzwarin take her place as the B.o.D.ís newest Director. Giuseppeís apprentice Clothild made dinner for us on Saturday night, which was awesome. I was sorry to have so little time with Joe-guppy, but the very next day I was off to Las Vegas!

Things could have gone a bit better in Vegas than Iíd planned, but I still had an excellent time. After my business concluded, my Grandmother, mom, and sister joined me for a week of R&R. Well, ostensibly anyway. We managed to log quite a few hours hoofing all over the strip but Iíll tell ya, I do love Vegas!

While in Las Vegas, we had occasion to take in the Cirque de Soleil show Mystere. I had seen the show on my last trip to Vegas, but was so moved by the performances that I was happy to see it again with my family. Once again, it was fabulous. Still, in the time since I had been there last, the Cirque creators had produced another show at the Bellagio simply called ĎO.í Iíd heard great things about the show and knew it had been sold out for months (always a good sign). We procured tickets (donít ask) and settled in to see ĎOí unfold on stage.

I donít know what to say or how to adequately describe what I saw. The music, staging, costuming, lighting all combined to create such a profound, visceral experience that within minutes of the shows commencement, I found myself actually weeping from the sheer beauty of it. It was a wholly artistic adventure that assaulted your senses on so many levels that it literally took your breath away. No kidding, my heart actually ached during this show and I couldnít even speak of it to anyone for over an hour after it ended, being so moved that any reflection upon it brought tears to my eyes.

[Purely as an aside, this past weekís episode of Southpark completely raped Cirque de Soleil. Itís so hard when two of your friends just donít get along. {sigh}]

We also took a day to drive out and see Hoover Dam or as Stephanie kept referring to it, ďThe damn Dam.Ē You can imagine the pun-filled day we all shared. ďHi, Iím your dam guide. Weíll be going down the dam elevator so we can start the dam tour.Ē And so, and so on. Sure, it sounds silly now, but it was actually pretty funny. The Hoover Dam has over five thousand visitors each day, yet these guys still managed to keep the pun fresh. How hard is that? Dam hard, Iíd say!

My sister Stephanie continued to demonstrate how sheís the luckiest person I know as she cleaned up in blackjack and roulette night after night. (Notice how I donít even mention my fortunes at the gaming tables.) Even when she lost her purse one evening, the management called up an hour later and said, ďDid you lose your purse with all your money and credit cards in the casino?Ē ďOh, yes,Ē she replied. ďWell, we have it all down here at the desk.Ē Only her!

There are a few new pics up on the Corvus website, though Iím still looking forward to seeing the pictures from Inn on the Road that Oshi and Sine took. And, NO, I wonít use that picture of William in drag on the website! Though the mere threat of that might help to get a new pic soon! Hmmm, something to consider.

Iím not sure how many events Iíll be able to make between now and Hidden Mountainís event. Now, itís only three weeks to Baronial Birthday here and I just learned that the Crown of Caid is coming in addition to our own Atlantian Crowns. How did this simple, little event turn into a Baronial Investiture before my eyes? I guess thatís what I get for missing staff meetings. -- BRAN

The Trimarian Word

Unto my good friends and family of House Corvus, since last I write, Trimaris has been anything but still, as we have witnessed a new Coronation, and in most recent times, a Board of Directors meeting.

At our most recent Coronation, I must confess that I spent less time participating in the event itself, and more time participating in our own activities. In celebration of the return of Spring, my apprentices and I hosted a public luncheon in the feasthall. Unfortunately, Mebh was still short of vacation time, and Rowen was unable to attend.

Continuing in a tradition begun by Master Iefan and myself a few years back, this luncheon demonstrated in many ways what I personally believe the society (and certainly House Corvus) is all about: a visual spectacle, applied lessons from history, and welcome hospitality for all who pass by. I was especially proud of the fact that my apprentices all worked very hard towards the goal of providing such a sensory spectacle as has rivaled any I have ever seen. Between the music, the food, and the decorations, I was satiated in all respects. I am especially pleased to announce that during the luncheon, I took on my newest apprentice, Milady Clotild de Soissons. The moment was made even more special as I belted Clotild with a belt hand-woven by Sine. The entire thing was just awesome! Of course, other things happened at Coronation. But by far, this was the most fulfilling part of the entire weekend. Good friends, good company, good food, and good fashion. Isnít that what its all about?

And now for something completely different - the BoD meeting. I, for one, have never before had the opportunity to attend one of these. Taking full advantage of Branís Orlando residence, I drove up Friday night, and met up with Bran shortly after his arrival.

First thing in the morning, we headed off to see just how these Men (and Women) in Black happen to do what they do as they do it. The meeting was an interesting mix of people. And as the afternoon progressed and various members of the audience fidgeted, I observed for myself the ways in which our 20th century non-profit organization truly functions. Itís not an easy job, by far. But I gained quite a bit of respect for those individuals who have contributed their time and energies towards trying to better this game for us all. If thereís one lesson I definitely learned, itís that the BoD doesnít hear anywhere near enough from the many, many players of this game. So remember guys, if you have a strong opinion on the game, make it known to the BoD.

In the evening after the meeting, the Barony of Darkwater hosted a short dessert revel. There, we garbed up, ate, socialized, and danced. One thing I definitely discovered while attending the revel with Maestra Francesca di Pavia is that I have GOT to get my cherry-red laurel wreath brocade turned into an outfit by Pennsic! -- GIUSEPPE

Poetry Corner


13th C. kanji form of first title and first tanka.

Waga koi wa
Mi o tsukushite ya
Sabishisa ni
Hito me yoku ran
Uki ni taenu wa

My fond, secret love,
Must I forever long for him?
In my loneliness,
I hide from peopleís eyes
But I cannot keep my tears.

13th C. kanji form of second tanka.

Omowazari keri
Kaku to dani
Hito no koishiki
Kawaku ma mo nashi

Though I would hide it,
I have never loved before.
How can I tell her
That I still love her so?
And no one knows it is there.

--Bran Trefonnen (2/00)

Notes on the Poem

Both English language poetry and extant European poetry of the tenth century simply didnít inspire me when I settled in to tackle writing a piece from this period. After the historical escapades of my Clio dedicated piece, I wanted something lighter, almost bouncy. That made me think of Terpsichore, Muse of Dance and Choral poetry. I imagined stately rhythms of both form and sound but had no where in Western Europe to provide the poetic style my mind seemed now intent on creating. Still, a member of my household has an oriental persona and I wondered if the literature of that culture might prove useful in my endeavors in seeking out a poetic style representative in the world of 900-999 AD.

Frankly, I had no idea! The Heian period (794-1192) was one of those amazing periods in Japanese history, equaled only by the later Tokugawa period in pre-modern Japan, in which an unprecedented peace and security passed over the land under the powerful rule of the Heian dynasty. Japanese culture during the Heian flourished as it never had before; such a cultural blossoming would only occur again during the long Tokugawa peace. For this reason, Heian Japan along with Nara Japan (710-794) is called "Classical" Japan.

The literature and culture of the Heian period was dominated by women. Poetry, despite the example of the Manyoshu, became largely based on imitations of Chinese, particularly T'ang, poetry. The flowering and proliferation of literature in the Heian period was in part made possible by the introduction of a new writing system that was purely phonetic, hiragana. Hiragana was introduced by the Buddhist, Kobo Daishi, who had studied Sanskrit, a phonetic alphabet, in India. The alphabet was a syllabic one-in part based on Chinese writing. Hiragana is made of simple, cursive strokes in which each character represents a single syllable. Not only is hiragana easier and faster to write, it also doesn't require a knowledge of Chinese characters. In the Heian period, the two writing systems became gendered-kana was associated with men's writing and hiragana was associated with women's writing.

Of all the literary forms that were dominated by women in the Heian period, including poetry and the novel, the most important for understanding women's communities, experience, and place in society are the nikki, or literary diaries. These are not diaries in our sense of the word, but rather literary in nature and intended for distribution. They are, in fact, closer to our idea of an autobiography. No two nikki are alike; the situations described by each woman and their response to them all run a rich gamut of experience and understanding. Cumulatively, though, they give a portrait of female life and women's communities across all ages and all roles, from youth to old age, from courtesan to grieving mother. Of the three I read, I found the Izumi Shikibu Diary (Izumi Shikibu nikki) the most intriguing. Izumi Shikibu was a famous author in her own time and notorious for her affairs. She was a dynamic woman whose nikki chronicles a romance between the author and Prince Atsumichi in the year 1003. Still, this was too late for the period with which I wished to deal. So, I turned to her pre-nikki works and the more enchanting poetry of her youth. Her tankas (or wakas) had a wistful ebullience about that that invoked what I head read about Heian music. Images of Japanese courtesans moving and chanting their work kept me firmly in Terpsichoreís thrall!

Perhaps the most permanent musical culture developed in early Japan was the gagaku, or court instrumental music, developed at the Heian court. As in so many other areas of cultural achievement, the long-lasting peace of the Heian period allowed for the development of a distinctly Japanese style of music.

In Japanese, gagaku means "refined" (ga) "music" (gaku) and so is perfectly in line with the Heian cultural value of miyabi, or "courtly refinement." Since the emphasis is on refinement or taste, gagaku was largely experienced in the Heian period as an elite or esoteric music, a "high culture" music in contrast to other Japanese musical traditions. Like other early Japanese musical traditions, gagaku is not "music alone" but rather music and dance or pantomime. The entire gagaku experience, from the music to the singing to the story to the dance was regarded as refined and elegant. It's important, however, to understand that gagaku is not a distinct musical classification, like "Baroque," but is a category that subsumes several musical and performance genres. It is largely a distinction between music for refined, courtly tastes, and all other types of music.

Like ancient court music, gagaku is largely divided up according to the origin of the musical style. The highest style is the Togaku, or T'ang courtly music." Along with the Komagaku, and the saibara, were the roei, or courtly songs written in T'ang style (or tankas). This gave me a musical, even dance-related, inspiration for the tankas Iíd been reading written by Izumi Shikibu.

the cricket's song
has no words,
it sounds like sorrow.
Even though
these pine trees
keep their original color,
everything green
is different in the spring.

Some cross the Pass of Love,
some don't.
Unless you are the watchman there
it is not your right
to cast blame.

When the water-freezing
winter arrives,
the floating reeds look rooted,
as if stillness
were their own desire.

These short songs or chants were most often composed as a dialogue between lovers, more especially, lonely women of the court.

I used as my primary source, or Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, also called Hyakunin Isshu. This is an anthology of one hundred poems by one hundred different poets. The poems are all "waka" (now called "tanka"). Waka are five-line poems of 31 syllables, arranged as 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. The waka represented in Hyakunin Isshu were court poetry, which almost exclusively used the waka format from the earliest days of Japanese poetry until the seventeen-syllable haiku came into prominence in the seventeenth century.

Hyakunin Isshu is said to have been compiled by the famous thirteenth-century critic and poet Fujiwara no Sadaie (also known as Teika), though his son Fujiwara no Tameie may have had a hand in revising the collection. Teika also compiled a waka anthology called Hyakunin Shuka (Superior Poems of Our Time), which shares many of the same poems as Hyakunin Isshu.

The hundred poems of Hyakunin Isshu are in rough chronological order from the seventh through the thirteenth centuries. The most famous poets through the late Heian period (795-1192 AD) in Japan are represented including Izumi Shikibu, the specific poet whose voice I am borrowing to illustrate the poetic style of her day.

The daughter of a Japanese provincial governor, Izumi Shikibu began service at court in her early teens. In 995 she was married to the governor of Izumi, and in 997 she had a daughter. She was known as a poet long before her marriage and she had already written one of her most popular poems, "I go out of the darkness". This sets her pre-nikki poems solidly within the period Iím trying to emulate here, specifically pre-999 AD.

In the late tenth century just prior to the year 1000, she began an affair with Prince Tametaka (977-1002), the son of the Emperor by a junior consort. The affair was apparently not conducted discreetly, for it became the subject of gossip; Izumi's husband divorced her, and when Tametaka died, his death was rumored to be due to his visiting Izumi during a plague season. It is this relationship that I have used as the inspiration for the two wakas presented in this piece.

Around 1010, Izumi remarried for a third time and went to the provinces, apparently never to return to court, although she continued to write poetry; 240 of her poems were included in later imperial anthologies and she had almost 1500 poems (tankas or wakas) extant. We don't know how long she lived; the last official reference to her was in 1033.

Of course, I learned along the way that you have to take some of the prose translations of her poetry with a grain of salt. For example, I was able to find this poem by Izumi Shikibu in its (more or less) original form from a 19th century edition of (Ogura Hyakunin Isshu) with all of the poems presented as woodblock prints ostensibly based on the 13th century original volume. The poem reads:

According to Tom Galtís 1982 Princeton University Press translation, the poem most literally translates into:

In the thought that soon
Outside this world I shall be
Where there is nothing,
If only I could see you
And speak with you once again!

However, this same poem appears in UVAís online version of Clay MaCauleyís 1917 translation of Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, as:

Soon my life will close.
When I am beyond this world
And have forgotten it,
Let me remember only this:
One final meeting with you.

As you can see, while it is clear that both translators sought to keep the ďgistĒ of the original Japanese work, there is quite a disparity in the artistic translation. However, both did manage to keep the structural integrity of the piece, its specific syllabic structure.

I found I had to work in a very similar fashion, balancing both literal and poetic transliteration of my work, but backwards. First, I had to write my two, Izumi-esque wakas out in English striving to achieve the specific syllable count for each line: 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. This way, I knew I had the feel I was going for in the two pieces. Then, with some help, I was able to transliterate the English text into Romaji, or romanized phonetic text. It was a simple enough chore from then on to convert the more modern katakana into the hiragana of the 13th century woodblock prints of the . I duplicated that same style of woodblock print when creating the hiragana or ďwomenís writingĒ still typical from the tenth century in the presentation of my two wakas.

This is an imagined dialogue between Izumi Shikibu and her foreign Prince Atsumichi. The first waka is sent by Izumi, the second Atsumichiís reply. Hopefully, Iíve captured some of the bittersweet nuance of her original work. Certainly, I tried to give some insight into her male voice. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Izumi Shikibuís earlier work was that she used her poems as a model for living and understanding gender relations. Her fictional narratives could be powerfully translated into everyday life. Chanting her works in the contemplative voice of gigaku, I found them quite lovely.


The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono No Kamachi and Izumi Shikubu
Translated by Mariko Aratani and Jane Hirshfield. ©1990 by Vintage Books.
[Note: This anthology has 120 of Izumi Shikibu's poems, with the poems' transliterated originals in the notes and has a valuable essay on translating Japanese poetry.]

"One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets"
from Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology
by Steven Carter. ©1991 by Stanford University Press. pp. 203-238.
[Note: Includes Romaji, English translations, and notes on the authors and poems. Perhaps the most useful recent edition in English.]

The Little Treasury of One Hundred People, One Poem Each.
By Tom Galt. ©1982 by Princeton University Press.

"The Diary of Izumi Shikibu," by Izumi Shikibu (974- )
from Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan
translated by Annie Shepley Omori and Kochi Doi, with an introduction by Amy Lowell. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920, pp. 147-196.

ďReading the rhetoric of seduction in Izumi Shikibu nikkiĒ
John R. Wallace, John R. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 58:2 (December 1998), pp. 481-512.
[Note: Wallace's article analyses the rhetoric of Izumi's Nikki, to show that her goal was to rehabilitate her reputation with those in her court circle. The first part of Wallace's article is a clear description of the role of the women attendants in the Heian period.]

ďWomen and Womenís Communities in Ancient JapanĒ
[Note: An essay on the historical role of women in ancient Japan, including an extended discussion of the life and thought of Heian women based on their diaries and other literary works.

The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan
Ivan I. Morris. ©1994 by Kodansha International, New York. pp 321-324.
[Note: This book by Ivan Morris is probably still the best single introduction to Japanese court society of the 900s and 1000s.]

A Word from Rhiannon

Last month, Master Bran and I attended the Coronation of TRM's Ragnar and Kyneburh. The event was held at the traditional Ymir site, but of course, the weather was MUCH better than Ymir ever thought about being. It was a balmy, sunny day in the low 70's, which was fortunate, since I chose to wear velvet.

Upon arriving, we were pleasantly greeted by a number of people, and we made our way to Troll and then to drop off scrolls for the outgoing Crown's final court. On our way back towards the field, we were stopped by Master Bryce de Byrum, who thanked Bran for his participation in the poetry duel at Kingdom A&S and expressed how impressed he was with Bran's poetic talent!

We then went on to the field, where I was a slight bit concern about where we were going to spend the day hanging out. But fortunately, the Sacred Stone baronial pavilion was up and we were welcomed into it by Her Excellency. We were offered breakfast, beverages and general good company, which we gladly partook. As we sat, laughing and conversing, we were joined by His Grace, Duke Anton; His Grace, Duke Cuan and Her Grace, Duchess Luned. As we enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere, the final court of Amalric and Caia began. We were positioned within sight, but not within hearing range of court and midway through court, several gentlemen in front of us turned at yelled Bran's name. We all thought we were being shushed for being too loud, however, the fact was that he had been called into court to receive a token from the Queen for his service to her during the reign.

While court started late, it ended exactly on schedule and during the brief recess before the Coronation ceremony, we wandered over to visit with Duchess Niobe. Well, folks, I must tell you, I remained there for the rest of the day, so wonderfully relaxing and pleasant was the atmosphere. In my heart, I knew I should quit imposing and wander elsewhere, but I was so enjoying the various conversations and just being in Niobe's presence that I couldn't bring myself to part.

The Coronation ceremony itself, was interesting, as Her Majesty (to-be) rode in on a white horse, but as we could not hear any of the actual words spoken, that was the height of the intrigue. I did have one brief moment of annoyance when they called for Great Officers to come swear fealty and I hurried in only to find all my counterparts walking arm-in-arm together, forcing me to tag along behind, like a lost child. Bran went to judge the Poeta Atlantia competition and I attended the Queen's Tea briefly and visited with Countess Brigit and then begged leave from Her Majesty for Bran and I to depart the site, after which we went to Outback and had a most wonderful meal. All in all, we had a very pleasant and fun day, relaxing in the company of good friends and basking in compliments, Bran for his various talents and me for just looking so damn good! -- RHIANNON

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