This is a translation of eight sets of poems and responses (out of a total of twenty) from the The Love Letter Poetry Contest Held in the Imperial Court in 1102. It was held on the 2nd and 7th days of the intercalary 5th month of 1102 in the Japanese imperial court. For the event of the 2nd, men had sent to court women poems declaring their love, and the women responded with poems rebuffing them. For the event of the 7th, court women sent to the men poems complaining of the men’s inconstancy, and the men responded justifying their behavior.

The two events bring together the role that poetry played in Heian period love relationships—the customary exchange of verses between lovers first during courtship, then at the consummation of the relationship, and, finally, at least in literature, the telling of the inevitable, bitter unraveling of the affair—with aspects of the competitive nature of poetry contests, each side attempting best to fulfill the requirements of a topic and engaging in verbal competition, although in this case, the poets do not compose on a shared topic but rather address each other.



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