The Poetic Roots of Chanoyu in Linked Verse Practice

April 13, 2022 - 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Nancy Hamilton (Chanoyu Practitioner and Instructor)
Nancy Hamilton (chanoyu Practitioner and Instructor)

Japanese tea practice is a social practice based in the aesthetic salon culture of medieval Japan. In the tearoom, aesthetics are expressed through a prescribed physical setting and the objects employed within that setting. These objects operate on a functional level as vessels and implements for containing and handling the ingredients for preparing whisked tea. 

In my presentation, I argue that these objects are valued not simply for their functional role, but also for their semiotic capacity. Specifically, I argue that tea objects operate as poetic texts in motion, and I propose that the genre of these texts is renga, or linked verse poetry. 

Looking at contemporary toriawase of tea objects, I will show how the same ideals that govern a renga linking session also inspire a mode of poetic engagement in tearoom dialogue: (1) an emphasis on movement achieved through the tension between topical continuity and change, (2) drama achieved by lexical restrictions that limit potent poetic imagery, and (3) a temporality that values the ephemerality of the poetic connection while resisting overall interpretations.

About the speaker: 
Nancy Hamilton earned her MA at Stanford University in East Asian Studies in 2020, specializing in classical Japanese poetry. She is also a practitioner and instructor of chanoyu, and her ties to TJF stem from her position at the Duke Gardens teahouse where she led educational programs in Japanese tea culture for many years. Her scholarly work focuses on the role of medieval poetics in Japanese tea culture.

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  • Asian/Pacific Studies Institute