The original concept for what is known as a Pillow Book derives from the 11th century Japanese court. Sei Shonagon was a court lady in the service of Empress Consort Teishi. Sei, much like Samuel Pepys in his diary of English court life in the 1600’s, included poetic lists, commentary on court life and her opinions of contemporaries and national events. Though a personal diary of her thoughts, Sei’s writing was poetic, literary and witty in tone, including a full measure of court gossip and parodies of court figures. It was first translated into English in 1889.
Format: The Book of Desires One modern concept of a Pillow Book is a small private volume kept by women under their pillows to record their most intimate or erotic moments, real or fantasy. It may also be an accounting of hidden desires, both physical and intellectual, a record of hidden ambitions or goals. It’s purpose serves a deeply private space in which to investigate our desires.
How: Find a small, lockable journal, not just for security but so the experience of unlocking the book becomes a metaphor for unlocking and opening oneself before writing. If not a lockable format, a journal that requires untying or undoing to open. Choose a color and design aesthetic you feel most defines your femininity. Use an elegant writing instrument and write wearing earrings and shoes only! Keep copies of Shappo’s poems and Pierre Louys’s Grecian stories by your bedside, not to mention pictures of your favorite movie stars!
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