Zuihitsu Juice for the Soul

Zuihitsu Juice for the Soul ~ a writing workshop led by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor

The Zuihitsu is a classic form from Japanese Literature that emerged sometime in the Heian Period (794-1185 AD) first seen in Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book. Sei Shonagon was a court reported who documented her daily life through random thoughts, letters, poem fragments, quotes, lists of things that she liked or disliked, recipes, stories and essays among other things. She placed these notes and lists in her pillow, hence The Pillow Book. The word Zuihitsu means to “follow” and “brush”, literally translated as “running brush.” This hybrid form incorporates random thoughts, journal entries, fragments of essays, fiction, haiku, fragments of letters, fragments of poems, lines from yours and other authors, notes on pregnancy, birthing, nature, childhood, identity, family life, recipes, grocery lists, and in the last few years, emails, tweets, texts and overheard conversations.

The Zuihitsu form is rarely taught in US literature classes mainly because there is no book length study of modern Zuihitsu in Japan or the US, and because.it defies definition or categorization. It is generally defined as “miscellaneous essay”, in US classrooms. The Zuihitsu form was made popular in the US by Japanese-American poet Kimiko Hahn. See her Zuihitsu poems in: The Narrow Road to the Interior, and Mosquito and Ant. The Zuihitsu is generally considered poetry-prose or word collage poetry, that is made up of loosely connected fragmented essays.

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