How to Write a Gogyohka Poem

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. – Carl Sandburg

Poetry is more than just putting words into a strict rhyming and/or syllabic form. Poetry is about the words themselves; the pictures that they conjure in one’s mind; the emotions that they cause one to feel. Poetry is an important part of us. It is in our hearts and souls.

Stories and poetry are very important to us as human beings. They help us to see the world for what it is.

There are so many different kinds of poetry. Many of these kinds of poetry have highly regulated forms while others are much more free and they can be about anything from food to the stars, and yet they all go under the name of poetry.

Today I would like to share with you one of the types of poetry that I discovered this last April when I participated in NaPoWriMo, where I wrote a poem a day during that month, this poem is called a gogyohka, pronounced go-gee-yoh-kuh. Gogyohka can be translated as ‘five-line poem’ or ‘song.’

This is a Japanese poem that was only invented in the late 1950s by Enta Kusakabe. It is a short poem like the haiku and the tanka with only five lines, but unlike those that came before this poem has no syllabic rules.

Also, this is a poem that does not usually rhyme. If you really wanted to make it rhyme you could, but that might make so that it is a different kind of poem. I can’t tell you what kind of poem it would be though.

There is one more thing that I should tell you before we actually go over how to write this poem, each line is a separate, usually short, phrase. The phrase can be one word or more than five. It is just that each phrase could stand alone which is important. If that was not the case it would be much more of a free verse poem than a gogyohka, even with it only being five lines.

Okay, now that we know exactly what a gogyohka poem is, we can actually look at how to go about writing one.

So, I’m going to share how I would go about writing this poem. It may not work for you, but this is what works for me. And who knows it might work for you as well, at any rate, it may give you a new way to try writing a poem.

The first thing to do is figure out what you want to write about. I know that this is a very obvious step, but it is good place to start. If there was not a topic, there would be no poem.

I’ve decided to write about the future.

Once you figure out what you want to write about it can be a good idea to write down some ideas of the phrases that you are going to use in the poem. It is short, so you want to make sure that every single word counts.

Here are some phrases that I am thinking about using. I have put them into a list as the easiest way to look at them.

  • Shadows of mystery
  • There is no way of knowing
  • Changes unexpected
  • Each day an adventure
  • Not knowing, just trusting

So, there are some idea phrases for me to use for the poem. I have five of them right now, but they don’t quite work together, and if you try to do it this way you may find that the same thing happens to you.

After you have gotten your ideas together, play with them and see what happens. Put them together in different ways, try other phrases until you are happy with your poem. It may take a little while before you will get your poem as you want it to be, but you can do it.

Here is my poem after it got played and fiddled with for some time:


Tomorrow is unknown
Waiting in the future quietly
Expected, yet unknowable
A new adventure
Not knowing, just trusting

That is my gogyohka. I hope that it will help you to get a bit more of an idea of what a gogyohka is.

And that is how I go about writing a gogyohka. It is not that difficult, especially when you compare it to some the other types of poetry.

Hopefully this will inspire you to write a gogyohka of your own!

2 thoughts on “How to Write a Gogyohka Poem

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