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Bringing your inner poet forward with “Gogyohka”

Guided by the sun

in a Japanese garden

I met a master of poetry

Who taught me

to be free.

I did it! My first five-line poem and probably not the last one!

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival saw a cultural event that a member of the audience qualifies as “even more beautiful than the flowers”: Gogyokha poetry.

Poet Enta Kusakabe encourages the crowd to open their heart and
express their inner feelings through five-line poetry.

Poetry is an art form deeply intricated with the History, culture and psyche of a Nation. As a way to vehicle old tales and take a snapshot of an era, traditional poetry has been over-protected and believed as immutable. This is the case in most ancient cultures and all the more so in Japan. When in 1957, student Enta Kusakabe decides to shake the rules of 1400 years of traditional short poetry (like Haiku, Tanka etc…) needless to say that his mission was not highly regarded by his peers. It took him over 40 years and the encouragement of his few readers to pursue his goal, break the constraint of the 5-7-5-7-7 syllable rule and open the freedom of writing to anyone.

Gogyohka can be translated literally as “five line poem”, but beyond the short poem form, it is a way to refocus the writer on its self, allowing him to use his pen as an open vehicle to the heart. “When I write five-line verse, I am able to gather together my thoughts on matters that are occupying my interest at the time. This process allows me to observe myself” explains Mr. Kusakabe. Amateurs and trained poets alike enjoy the freedom of writing without the rigidity of a pre-established rhythm and patterns. It becomes a natural way of expressing yourself. The music of each poem follows the breath in an instinctive flow, where inspiration and respiration often merge. There is no need to cut or redirect your innate breathing to mark the end of a sentence. Each verse ideally follows the path of a natural sentence written in an everyday language.

Mr. Kusakabe has published a Gogyohka poetry book
in English for his international audience.

The beauty of Gogyohka resides in its pure simplicity and is fully supported by its “short” structure. Writing only (or as many!) as five lines calls for clarity in thoughts and a deep reflexion on the axis you wish to express. “Once you are aware of what is most important to you, you are able to build your own system of values in relation to it” says Enta Kusakabe. In our modern societies, focusing the mind on the single topic at a given moment represents a challenge in itself! Five-line poetry offers this lost opportunity to pause in our hectic lives and recenter on what really matters and benefit to your self.

This new way of thinking has gathered the interest of more than 4,000 people across the World, in addition to more than a half million people in Japan who are now writing Gogyohka. Since 2008, The American Chapter of Gogyohka Society led by Elizabeth Phaire, Joseph Gesick and Linda Voss, has established an online community called “Gogyohka Junction” where anyone can contribute and post their own short poems. This is an unprecented opportunity to unveil the masterpiece which has been laying in your head so I will lead the way:

Sole commander of my ship

with the flow

I go

and the pen

is my alter-ego.

——– Reported by Ruth Berdah-Canet

Gogyohka Junction
As the American Chapter of Gogyohka Society, they hold various events like workshops, readings, and events.  For upcoming events, go to their website: