Gogyohka poem (on joy)

For VerseLove today at Ethical ELA, Stacey L. Joy introduces the Gogyohka form. Stacey writes: “The Gogyohka is a form of verse developed by poet Enta Kusakabe in 1957. The idea behind the Gogyohka was to take the traditional form of Tanka poetry (which is written in five lines with 5-7-5-7-7 syllable counts) and liberate its structure, creating a freer form of verse. In the 1990s, Kusakabe began his efforts to spread Gogyohka as a new movement in poetry, and there are now around half a million people writing this form of verse in Japan.” Stacey invites teacher-poets to write a five-line free form poem on joy or liberation, or as many Gogyohka poems as we want.

As I pondered the many things that bring me joy and a sense of liberation, the song “Ode to Joy” came to mind. I went with it. The song title and the last verse comprise the last lines of each Gogyohka:

Call to Joy and Liberation

it is there
in feathered new-morning stirrings
before the sun’s rising
ode to joy

it is there
the golden key of redemption turning
in the locked human heart
ever singing, march we onward
it is there
illuminating the faces of generations
clasping their grandchildren
victors in the midst of strife
it is still there
the uninhibited dance of childhood
a wellspring pure and free as birdsong
joyful music leads us sunward
and it is there
a record of your existence
your own vital contribution 
in the triumph song of life


2 thoughts on “Gogyohka poem (on joy)

  1. Beethoven’s Ninth has profound significance for me, and your choice of concept strongly appeals to me. I got chills from this portion: “the golden key of redemption turning / in the locked human heart / ever singing, march we onward…” Such a powerful metaphor and an inspiring sentiment.

    I would like to know more about that picture of you with the child. I can only suspect some significance in relation to your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a glorious piece of music – stirs the deepest parts of the soul, even without the lyrics of “Joyful, joyful” praise. The photo: That’s my granddaughter, Micah, firstborn of my firstborn. Although she’s a major source of my present joy, when I wrote the lines about grandparents clasping their grandchildren with shining faces, I was thinking more of my own grandparents surviving the Great Depression and WWII to reap the joy of savoring grandchildren: “victors in the midst of strife.” I thought, too, of today’s grandparents escaping from Ukraine to Poland with grandchildren – preserving the generations, the future. It may be hard to tell but in my black-and-white profile photo, I am holding Micah, one day old. Joy – and awe.

      Liked by 1 person

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