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  • Shona McCarthy

Sei Shonagon's Twitter Account


I don't typically find that I'm that much of a Twitter person. The layout isn't really quite my style. But during the little wanders I have done there, I made a rather lovely discovery. Someone has created a twitter account for Sei Shonagon, one of the most famous and renowned poets in Japanese history. And if you're thinking it's just a cheesy impersonation account, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

(Sei Shonagon and her contemporaries as depicted by famous artist, Chikanobu.) In her own time, Sei Shonagon was notorious for the honesty, witticisms and lyricism of her writings. What amounted to a kind of leaked diary she called "The Pillow Book" has gone on to be one of the few surviving documents from that period of Japanese history, around 1000 years ago. Some of her poems also appear in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, the most famous poetry collection in Japanese history. I write about the excitement I had visiting the text myself in another post. But since some of her writings are so personal, casual and almost documentarian about her life, they fit the format of Twitter with an eerie level of perfection. Reading each post, one almost feels as though she were still alive today, sharing little insights about her experiences with her followers. The account is even capable of following others.

The result is that when you follow "her", your feed is regularly blessed with little pieces of her thoughts and feelings from 1000 years ago. The "wakka" poetry style of the period fits nicely within Twitter's frames. And in amongst all of the sometimes tawdry posts of today, her urbane words shine like polished gems in a river.

Poems were so important as a mode of communication in Shonagon Sei's world. Almost as though they were the Twitter posts of her time.

When I read her posts, I feel as though, just for a moment, I'm suddenly in Arashiyama again. I feel as though she has somehow crossed the vast seas of time and space to whisper her thoughts into my mind.

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