The Ink Dark Moon

The Ink Dark Moon


Here is a collection of sexy, brief, fleeting poems about love, lust and longing. They originate from a time in Japanese history where aristocratic women of the Heian court were free to marry and conduct love affairs according to their desires. Education and refinement were so highly valued that the courtly manner of expressing oneself, whether to give condolences for a death, to send back a forgotten fan, or to heighten the anticipation of a lover's visit, was with a poem of just five lines. A convention of secrecy surrounding love affairs fills these verses with palpable emotion.

These vivid and erotic poems express love in all its forms, and do so with amazing economy of words, unforgettable imagery and breath-taking modernity.


'They are full of dreams, of autumns, of lovers known or not yet met, of desire, wonderment, loneliness' Irish Times

Translated by Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani, this is an edition that brings the story of the poems to life with a detailed introduction and notes on the translation.


  • These poems take us to the back corridors of Heian Period life and reveal the sexual intrigues that so often occurred under the cover of darkness... the seductive, free-spirited erotic environment unfolds through these sensuous poems
    Japan Times

About the authors

Izumi Shikibu

Izumi Shikibu, born c.974, was the daughter of a lord who came to the Heian court to serve a former empress. During her time there she had two prominent love affairs to men who both died, was embroiled in scandal, and was married and divorced. When she married her second husband she accompanied him to his post in the provinces and never returned to court life. She is thought to have died around the age of 60. Her reputation as a poet grew after her death and she is now regarded as one of the outstanding poets of Japanese literature.
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Ono no Komachi

Ono no Komachi was a legendary figure from the time of her death. Little is known about her life but historians believe Komachi served the Heian court in the middle of the 9th century. She most likely had at least one child. The legend goes that she was not only the outstanding poet of her time but the most beautiful, though the story told in No plays is that she ended her days in poverty and obscurity.
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