Poetry in Exile
Poetry in Exile
Sugawara no Michizane and Ovid
What happens if poets socialized in different literary cultures are forced into a comparably shocking situation like exile? This chapter compares the exile poetry of Sugawara no Michizane, a prominent statesman and poet, who was degraded to the office of Governor of Dazaifu far away from the capital in 901, with that of Ovid who was banished by Augustus and languished at Tomis on the Black Sea after 8 CE. The chapter shows how distinctly these two poets responded to the creative challenge of exile. Ovid, the poet-provocateur with solid rhetorical training, cast his plaints in strongly addressive epistolary elegy and could not stop himself from constantly pleading with people in Rome to plead for him. But Michizane, the eminent demoted poet-official, preferred musing on plants and plant allegories associated with exiles and recluses in the Chinese tradition. Although personal temperament certainly played a role, these divergences were ultimately rooted in the different social status of poets in Heian and Augustan society, and in the different rhetorical tools, poetic and mythological lore, and traditions of exile poetry the poets had at their disposition.
Keywords: exile poetry, poets in exile, Sugawara no Michizane, Sugawara Family, Kanke kôshû, Ovid, Tristia, Letters from Pontus, Epistulae ex Ponto, plant allegory, epistolary elegy, addressivity, rhetoric
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