Week Forty-Five: Dodoitsu

Meet the Dodoitsu

The Dodoitsu is one of a wide variety of popular Japanese haiku variations. While some poetic forms can seem daunting and overly restrictive, the elegant simplicity of these forms gives them an air of accessibility that is inviting to poets of all ages and levels of experience.

Key Features of the Dodoitsu

Title: Title optional

Form: Usually consists of a single four-line stanza (quatrain)

Syllables: The first three lines contain seven syllables, and the final line contains five

Content: Traditionally have a theme of love or work and occasionally feature a humorous, unexpected twist


An Original Dodoitsu

Spring Garden

Black-eyed Susans, snapdragons
and lavender for the bees;
sugar water, Wendy’s Wish
for the hummingbirds.


Want to Learn More? Start Here:

Dodoitsu – Writer’s Digest
Dodoitsu – Wikipedia
Dodoitsu – Poets Collective
Dodoitsu – Poetry Magnum Opus


Come back every Friday for a new form!

~ Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws ~

Write your own Dodoitsu and share in the comments!

Week Thirty-One: Katauta

Meet the Katauta

The Katauta is a short romantic poem addressed to a lover and is similar to other Japanese forms such as the haiku, somonka, and sedoka. A katauta asks a question, but since the question remains unanswered, it’s sometimes considered more of a half-poem.

Key Features

Form: A short three-line poem, typically untitled
Content: Addressed to a lover and asks a question
Syllable Count: usually 5-7-7, but sometimes 5-7-5

Example Poem

Untitled Katauta, by Robert Lee Brewer

why do winter stars
shine brighter than summer stars
as if they are shards of glass?

An Original Katauta

my love, will we rise
up against this wave of hate,
or will we stay here in bed?


Want to Learn More? Start Here:

Katauta – Writer’s Digest
Japanese Poetry Forms – The Poet’s Garret
Katauta – Poets Collective


Come back every Friday for a new form!

~ Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws ~

Write your own katauta and—
share in the comments!

Week Twenty-Four: The Gogyohka


The Japanese love their five-line forms. (I love them too!) The word Gogyohka (sometimes written Gogyōka in English) translates literally from Japanese to mean “five-line form.” An unnamed version of the form has existed at least since the early 1900s, but the popularity of the form today is largely credited to poet Enta Kusakabe who developed and trademarked the gogyohka in 1983 as a freer adaptation of the tanka form.

A Gogyohka by Enta Kusakabe

What kind of
stained glass
have your
rose-coloured cheeks
passed through

                                          Enta Kusakabe

Five rules of Gogyohka
by Enta Kusakabe*

  • Gogyohka is a new form of short poem that is based on the ancient Japanese Tanka and Kodai kayo.
  • Gogyohka has five lines, but exceptionally may have four or six.
  • Each line of Gogyohka consists of one phrase with a line-break after each phrase or breath.
  • Gogyohka has no restraint on numbers of words or syllables.
  • The theme of Gogyohka is unrestricted.
    *from Wikipedia

Three Original Gogyohka


The autumn sunset
the prairie moon
the astounding things
the eyes can do
with light


In arctic silence
even an echo
of a heartbeat
can become
an avalanche


Don’t stack up
your worry
against the frost
you’ll wither without
that winter sun

Links to Online Resources

Gogyohka – Writer’s Digest
Gogyohka – 5gogyohka.com
Gogyōka – Wikipedia
What is a Gogyohka? – Thanet Writers


Come back every Friday to see the next form!

~ Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws ~

Write your own and share in the comments!

Week Twenty-Two: The Haibun


The Haibun features a fascinating paring of prose poetry and haiku. It was invented and popularized by 17th century Japanese master poet Matsuo Bashō. The prose and haiku of the haibun are often in communication with each other in direct or subtle ways.

Haibun Example

LAKE SADDLEBAG by marie a. mennuto-rovello

I walk the north end of the lake this time every summer. Listen to the murky green waters slap up against the weather beaten dock. In the distance, the sound of children skinny dipping.

from a navy sky
sound of cicadas calling
full moon on the rise

Requirements of the Form


– Titled, unlike traditional haiku

– Begins with a small number of short paragraphs (typically one to three) written in prose poetry style

– Ends with a traditional haiku that reflects or is in some relationship with the introductory prose poem


Common elements and themes include:
– Strong sense of place through natural imagery and sensory detail
– Travel or sense of journey
– Autobiographical elements
– Economy of language
– Sense of presence and immediacy typically found in haiku
– Haiku follows other rules typically found in form

Syllable Count

– For the haiku, syllables needn’t be counted 5-7-5 as in the English Haiku. Rather, aim for a short first line, followed by a longer line, ending with another short line. This approach more closely reflects the spirit of the traditional Japanese form.

An Original Haibun

October 28, 2019 [a haibun]

October is ending. The blazing reds of the sugar maple have begun to yellow. I stand at the front window, still in my bathrobe though noon approaches, still fighting a cold with rest and medication. A small grey cat brushes against my leg and then the curtain. Beside her, a fat tabby dozes on a quilt on a rocking chair. Beside the rocking chair, a wastebasket full of crumpled tissues waits to be emptied.

I refill my coffee mug, warming my hands with it as I return to the window. The leaves on the lawn are beginning to brown, reminding me of the promise to rake. Last year we let them lay and they choked the irises. At the feeder, only the occasional finch returns. The water in the birdbath is not yet frozen.

October ends
orange leaves and white snowflakes 
fall together

Links to Online Resources

Haibun – Wikipedia
Haibun Poems – Writer’s Digest
Matsuo Bashō – Wikipedia
A Closer Look at Writing Haibun – Poets.org
Haiku – Wikipedia


Come back every Friday to see the next form!

~ Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws ~

Write your own and share in the comments!

Week Eighteen: The Somonka


If you enjoyed last week’s form, The Tanka, you should enjoy The Somonka twice as much! It is simply two tankas written in conversation with one another. Traditionally, the somonka reflects upon a theme of love and is written by two authors. But you may find modern somonka written by a single author in two voices. The theme of love may also be adapted and expanded beyond purely romantic sentiments to include love of friends and family, a precious object, or even the world itself.


“Sugar,” by Robert Lee Brewer

I’m waiting to die;
I think it will happen soon–
this morning, I saw
two bright hummingbirds battling
over some sugar water.

I know; I was there.
I chased after them for you
until thirst stopped me.
Fetch me some water. I have
a little sugar for you.

Requirements of the Form


– Consists of two five-line tankas for a total of ten lines


– Usually revolves around a theme of love
– The second tanka responds to the first in some way

~~For all other requirements, see last week’s post~~

An Original Somonka


You love the winter,
the delicacy of snow.
I love your warmth,
the lightness of your fingers,
your perfect paper snowflakes.

You love the autumn
a golden world unfolding
I love your growth
dexterous like a spider
weaving into creation

Notes on Our Original Somonka

Special thanks to my lovely wife, Emily, who contributed the second tanka of this somonka.

Links to Online Resources

Somonka – Writer’s Digest
Somonka – Poet’s Collective
American Tanka
Tanka – Writer’s Digest
Tanka – AHA Poetry


–Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws

Week Seventeen: The Tanka


The Tanka is a Japanese form closely related to the haiku. It’s a slightly longer form–made up of a quintet rather than a tercet–but maintains the haiku’s somewhat strict syllable restrictions. While some of the conventions associated with the haiku are still present–such as the focus on imagery–the tone of the tanka may be more conversational. Restrictions on the use of poetic devices such as metaphor and personification are also more relaxed.

Tanka burning Buddhist statues – Wikimedia Commons

Two Paths to the Tanka

There are two ways to approach the syllable requirements of a Japanese form such as the tanka when composing outside of the original language.

One approach uses the syllable requirements of the English haiku (the well known 5-7-5 rule) as a guide. Following this pattern, the syllable count for the tanka would become 5-7-5-7-7. Strict adherence to this method would result in a tanka of exactly thirty-one syllables. Since the way that syllables are counted in the two languages are not directly comparable, this is only an approximation of the original form.

The second approach is to use what I’ll call the short-long-short method, in which the length of the lines, and the difference between them, is more important than the actual syllable count. Using this method, the lines of the tanka would be written short-long-short-long-long. Using this method, the tanka is often shorter than thirty-one syllables (the number of syllables per line is more likely to be lowered than raised). Some would argue that this method is more in the spirit of the original Japanese form.

*Visit American Tanka for more on the history of the tanka.*

A Tanka by Saigyo*

Beside the roadway
a flowing of clear water
in a willow’s shade
I thought for just a short while
to linger and take a rest.

*12th century Japanese poet and priest

Requirements of the Form


– most often made of a single quintet


Similarities with haiku
– focus on brevity, immediacy
– use of natural imagery
– often features an unexpected “turn” in the final lines of the poem

Differences from haiku
– allows figurative language such as metaphor
– may have relaxed, more conversational tone

Syllable Count

– Option One (Based on English Haiku): 5-7-5-7-7
Option Two (Truer to Japanese Form): Short-Long-Short-Long-Long


– not typically metrical


– not usually rhymed

Requirements Breakdown

[Line 1] 5 Syllables (short line)
[Line 2] 7 Syllables (longer line)
[Line 3] 5 Syllables (short line)
[Line 4] 7 Syllables (longer line)
[Line 5] 7 Syllables (longer line)

Three Original Tanka

The Artist Knows

The artist knows
the bee in the sunflowers
shares a great lesson:
keep collecting that nectar
and the honey will come.


The volcano,
long covered by the blue
ice of the glacier,
will soon strike out with fiery
eruptions of consequence.

Like a Child Moving

Like a child moving
endlessly from game to game
without tiring–
in the hummingbird’s garden
our hearts dance from joy to joy.

Links to Online Resources

American Tanka
Tanka – Writer’s Digest
Tanka – AHA Poetry


–Creative works are owned by the author and subject to copyright laws