Kiyowara no Motosuke (908-990) has somewhat confused ancestry, with the exact identity of his father being unknown. The two most likely candidates are Kiyowara no Harumitsu 清原春光, the Governor of Shimôsa (shimôsa no kami 下総守) or Kiyowara no Akitada 清原顕忠, the Governor of Shimotsuke (simotuke no kami 下野守) , but some theories claim he was, in fact, the son of Kiyowara no Fukayabu 清原深養父, the man more usually assumed to be his grandfather. Whatever his exact parentage, he is chiefly remembered now as the father of a famous daughter, Sei Shônagon, author of the Makura no Sôshi.
Motosuke had middling court career, starting out as Provisional Junior Secretary of Kawachi (kawchi gon-shôjô 河内権少掾), and then passing through the offices of Junior Inspector (shôkenmotsu 少監物) in the Ministry of Central Affairs (nakatsukasashô 中務省), Middle Inspector (chûkenmotsu 中監物) in the same ministry, Junior Secretary (shôjô 少丞) in the Ministry of the Treasury (ôkurashô 大蔵省), Junior Secretary in the Ministry of Popular Affairs (minbushô 民部省), Senior Secretary (daijô 大丞) in the same ministry, Provisional Governor of Kawachi (kawachi gon-kami 河内権守), Governor of Suô and Chief of the Mint (suô no kami ken-shûsen no kami 周防守兼鋳銭長官) and ending up as Governor of Higo (higo no kami 肥後守) at Junior Fifth Rank Upper Grade. In fact, he was still in this position and away from the capital when he died.
Over the course of his long life Motosuke acquired a reputation as both a poet and a man of learning, frequently being called upon by senior members of the nobility to compose poems for folding screens. Moreover, along with Ônakatomi no Yoshinobu 大中臣能宣, Minamoto no Shitagô 源順, Ki no Tokifumi 紀時文 and Sakanoe no Mochiki 坂上望城, he was one of the ‘Five Men of the Pear Jar Room’ who compiled the Gosenshû 後撰集, and history has judged him to be one of the ‘36 Poetic Sages’(sanjû rokkasen 三十六歌仙) of his time.