Beauty is the Aura of Contemplation
In his judgments at poetry contests, Shunzei was evidently concerned with the power of poetic language to evoke or provoke a state of mind similar to the contemplation of ultimate reality in Zen meditation, or shikan. His critical ideal, one that influenced the whole course of medieval Japanese poetry, was aptly described by Tanaka Yutaka as kehai or keiki (“aura, emanation”). According to Tanaka, the poetic ideals of the Shinkokinshū poets, such as yūgen, yojō, and en, should be seen within the context of the whole reexamination of the nature of poetic process and poetic expression explained by Shunzei in the Korai fūteishō. Shunzei's notion of aura is defined alongside yūgen, or “ineffable depth,” and his concern with the configuration (sugata) of the poem as chanted and heard, its aurality, is suggestive of poetry's ritual function as some sort of oracular incantation, a revelatory performative activity.
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