Cover of Murmured Conversations by Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen
Murmured Conversations
A Treatise on Poetry and Buddhism by the Poet-Monk Shinkei
Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen


432 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804748636
Ebook ISBN: 9780804779395


Excerpts and More

Winner of the 2009 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, sponsored by Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University.

Murmured Conversations is the first complete and rigorously annotated translation of Sasamegoto (1463–1464), considered the most important and representative poetic treatise of the medieval period in Japan because of its thoroughgoing construction of poetry as a way to attain, and signify through language, the mental liberation (satori) that is the goal of Buddhist practice. It is a fascinating document revealing the central place of Buddhist philosophy in medieval Japanese artistic practices. Shinkei (1406–1475), the author of the treatise, is himself a major poet, regarded as the most brilliant among the practitioners of linked poetry (renga) in the Muromachi Period.

Along with the extensive annotations, Ramirez-Christensen's commentaries illuminate the significance of each section of the treatise within the context of waka and renga poetics, of the history of classical Japanese aesthetic principles in general and of Shinkei's thought in particular, and the role of Buddhism in the contemporary understanding of cultural practices like poetry. This is the most comprehensive presentation available in English of a major classical Japanese critical text.

About the author

Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen is Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Heart's Flower: The Life and Poetry of Shinkei (Stanford, 1994), and the co-editor of The Father-Daughter Plot: Japanese Literary Women and the Law of the Father (2001).

"The combination of Shinkei's words and Ramirez-Christensen's commentary reveals in breathtaking detail the intellectual and spiritual landscape of this late medieval thinker. This was a world in which poetry and Buddhism became one. This book is a must for anyone with a deep interest in the history of Japanese poetry and how poetry and Buddhism came to be inextricably blended in medieval Japan."


"In addition to her groundbreaking Emptiness and Temporality, which itself constitutes a major contribution to the fields of waka and renga studies, she has published a 416 page annotated translation of the poet Shinkei's fifteenth-century Sasamegoto, Murmured Conversations (2008)....These two new volumes confirm their author as one the world's leading authorities on Shinkei, renga, and medieval Japanese poetics."

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies