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A poem to carp about? Poem 16–3828 of the Man'yōshū collection

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 September 2011

Edwina Palmer*
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


The poem discussed has long been regarded as a “nonsense” poem that was extemporized as part of some kind of poetry game at Court. This article presents evidence to demonstrate that through the use of puns and double entendre the poet in fact ingeniously devised a witty scatological verse. Rather than “nonsense”, the poem is discovered to offer covertly a deeply satirical social commentary on the contemporaneous relationships between men and women, aristocrats and outcastes.

Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 2011

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