“Love is,” #Gogyohka

Let’s talk more about the Gogyohka syllabic poetry form which uses the 5/7/5/7/7 Tanka line structure. Instead of counting syllables we write in phrases consisting of one spoken breath.

I can hear you all now… how can this form fit into the syllabic category if we don’t count the syllables?

The Gogyohka form by Enta Kusakabe was developed in the 1980s in Japan, which literally translates to a “five-line poem.” (Writersdigest.com)

The Gogyohka is an off-shoot of the tanka form with some simple rules to follow. The poem contains five lines, with one phrase per line.

OK… So, How Long is a Phrase?

Each line of a Gogyohka comprises one phrase with a line-break after each phrase or breath.

Please read the instructions for the Gogyohka on the Syllabic poetry cheatsheet below:

A phrase is not a sentence. It is one breath long. If you have to inhale to say the next word, that word belongs on the next line.

Japanese words are made with short breath sounds, contrary to our English syllables. Japanese syllables are also short like pronouncing the word Jo, instead of Joe. However, Graceguts.com shares:

“Japanese words nearly always tend to have more syllables per word than their English counterparts (compare “hototogisu” to “cuckoo” thus making Japanese haiku use up their syllables more quickly with less content or information than is possible if you write 5-7-5 syllables in English.”


This syllable difference between English and Japanese is one reason why the poetic communities have moved from the 5/7/5 Haiku to the 3/5/3 Haiku. It all has to do with the syllable count and the sounds. And, just when you have it figured out… another syllabic poetry authority will suggest you are doing it wrong.

From everything I’ve researched, the differences between the Gogyohka form as compared to the 5/7/5/7/7 Tanka form is that each line should only be one breath long. Remember, these forms are about brevity, not long free style poetry.

Example of a sentence: My love colors me pink.

Here is a phrase: love is pink

Even though this form appears unrestrained, it really isn’t. Say your Gogyohka poetry out loud to get the breaths right. Write in phrases, or quick thoughts, not sentences.

Here is my Gogyohka for this week’s poetry challenge. I used spark for love; and oneness for harmony.

Love is, #Gogyohka

in your arms
sparks fly
passions soar
our oneness

©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro

Notice how my phrases are only a breath long. If you added more words to each of the lines, you would have to take a breath in order to say them. When writing Gogyohka, write in breaths and phrases. Brevity is key.

45 thoughts on ““Love is,” #Gogyohka

    1. This is so interesting sis, I am so grateful for your clear expectations. I can see the beauty in your poem and it is great to hear you read it too. My dad always said “brevity is key”. 💜


    1. You’re welcome. There is a book on Amazon I would to buy about this form. Everyone thinks it’s a free style version of Tanka. The breaths make sense since that would be different than counting syllables in English. This is probably how the Japanese write Tanka. ❤️


      1. Haha, I know, it sounds peculiar to hear yourself. But I liked it and as you said, you reading the poem shows how there is brought more expression to the already wonderful words.


          1. Breathing is life, renewal, expression, meditation… It makes so much sense, that with breathing you create atmosphere.
            You are welcome, dear Colleen 💖


      1. Oh Colleen, thank you. I would love to stop by regularly, but those three little granddaughters keep me busy and I’m always behind on everything else. ❤️❤️❤️


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