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 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