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Imayo: Poetic Forms

Learn how to write the imayo, a four-line Japanese poem, including guidelines for the poetic form and an example poem.

For this Poetic Form Friday, let's play with the imayo!

Imayo Poems

The imayo is a 4-line Japanese poem that has 12 syllables in each line. If a 12-syllable line sounds unique for a Japanese poetic form, don't fret. There is a planned caesura (or pause) between the first 7 syllables and the final 5. The 5/7 syllable splits are the familiar patterns found in other Japanese forms like haiku, tanka, and senryu.

The imayo was originally written to be sung, but that's not a requirement. Also, poets have free range on subject matter.

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The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.

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Here’s my attempt at an Imayo:

Run, by Robert Lee Brewer

Her feet flow along the path - deer watch from the trees
Hair pulled in a pony tail - birds fly over head
Her eyes on the horizon - fish swim in the creek
Her mind replaying the past - a tree falls silent

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Here is the same poem with the lines broken at the caesura:

Run, by Robert Lee Brewer

her feet flow along the path
deer watch from the trees
hair pulled in a pony tail
birds fly over head
her eyes on the horizon
fish swim in the creek
her mind replaying the past
a tree falls silent

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