Here’s what the Gogyohka poem form is:
While you might hear that the gogyohka is a short Japanese poem form and mistakenly conflate it with the extremely popular haiku, the two are not related.
The gogyohka is a modern invention of the Japanese poet Enta Kusakabe (born 1938) and only has two simple rules.
It is five lines long.
Each line is one phrase.
So if you want to learn all about the Gogyohka poem type, then you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s jump right in!
Forms of Poetry: Gogyohka
The gogyohka is a modern Japanese poem form by poet Enta Kusakabe, born 1938.
While many Japanese forms are very old and interwoven into a complex family tree that can be traced back to the traditional renga, this particular form is a very simple and free five-line poem that was created with more modern sensibilities in mind.
This is one of the simplest forms to describe, and you’ll know everything you need to know if you remember the following description.
Five lines, five phrases.
What constitutes a “phrase” is a little shady and seems to be subjective, but that really is just about all you need to know for this one.
It is worth noting two things that should not be in the poem, though.
A gogyohka is not expected to have a rhyme scheme or meter, nor should you force it in there.
The whole point of the gogyohka is that it’s concise and free.
If you add restraints to the poem, then you’re missing the whole purpose of the form.
Basic Properties of the Gogyohka
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How Is a Gogyohka Structured?
As said above, the gogyohka really is just five lines essentially in free verse.
Each line constitutes a “phrase” but the length of a phrase or what the definition of a phrase would actually entail is hard to pin down.
The examples bouncing around tend to have lines of five words or shorter, though, so that would probably be a good stopping point.
Do note that I said “or shorter.”
There really is no set length, and I don’t think anyone would complain if one of your lines were six words, since the form is inherently meant to be free.
Punctuation is optional, but enjambment seems to be preferred by most poets.
There are no caesuras or cutting words implied by the form and the subject matter is unlimited.
Write about anything from unicorns to alcoholism.
The world is your oyster, although it’s a pretty tiny oyster this time around.
Examples of a Gogyohka
The heavens cry out
in deafening silence
for those who would listen
but once again
deaf ears fail us.
The above example is really just a statement broken up into the lines of a poem.
The charm of the gogyohka is taking a simple, short thought and using techniques like imagery and metaphor to better define it for the reader.
Experienced poets will have a natural feel for stopping points on each line, but one tip you can use if you don’t have that sense yet is to read the poem out loud.
Where does the speaker naturally pause or breathe?
Those are the best places to break the line.
I have never seen
a baby fox
on a rainy day
but I’d like to believe
This second example was just a random meandering thought.
Then again, brief poems like this are excellent places to let your mind wander.
The result will generally be more interesting than if you tried to imitate popular poetry, since it will naturally sound more like your own speaking voice in the reader’s head.
Tips for Writing a Gogyohka
Keep the concept simple.
One of the easiest ways to write a gogyohka is really just to think of a sentence that sounds poetic and break it up into five parts, adding or removing parts to match the length.
Of course, that is an oversimplification, but it’s a valid approach.
This method was used to write the first example above.
The second was written phrase by phrase.
In general, you should be making sure every line of the gogyohka is putting in some work.
It would be boring to read a poem that doesn’t evoke any emotions or share any message central to the poem, so try to make sure you’re actually saying something with the poem.
Then again, you do have the option of just making a poignant observation and letting the reader come up with their own deeper meaning.
That approach was used for the second example above.
This style of writing isn’t suitable for longer poems, but it does work well for short forms like this one, since you have limited space to work with anyway.
Japanese poems thrive on strong, simple imagery, so do try to keep it simple and vivid if possible.
While the gogyohka is not related to a haiku, modern haikus can potentially give you a good sensibility for what kinds of descriptions are generally valued in Japanese literature.
While simple, this is a refreshing little poem.
I could have easily drummed up another twenty or so examples without breaking a sweat, but I imagine my editor’s patience has to have a limit somewhere.
If you love free verse then you might find this form particularly interesting, since it’s so close to being just a free-standing stanza with no rules.
Comprehensive Collection of Poem Forms: Craft Words into Art
What if you went down the poem types rabbit hole all the way?
From the mundane Sonnet to the rare mistress bradstreet stanza to Grammarly’s worst nightmare cro cumaisc etir casbairdni ocus lethrannaighecht.
So if you want to discover poem types of all sorts, then this is for you.
Start exploring the vast universe of poetic ingenuity with our comprehensive array of poem forms right now!