Poetry Kaleidoscope: Guide to Poetry


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Shichigon-zekku (七言絶句) is the Japanese term for a poetry verse form (often of Chinese origin) consisting of four phrases each seven Chinese characters (kanji - 漢字) in length.

Shichigon-zekku are the most common form of classical Chinese poems (kanshi - 漢詩), and the standard form of shigin (Japanese chanted poetry).


In composing Shichigon-zekku, the character of the phrases (zekku) is important. The rule is as follows:

  • First phrase (kiku - 起句): Depiction of the scene
  • Second phrase (shoku - 承句): Add further illustration and detail to the kiku
  • Third phrase (tenku - 転句): By changing the scene of action, reveal the true essence of the poem
  • Fourth phrase (kekku - 結句): In assimilating the tenku draw together and complete the poem

The Japanese terms mean literally: bringing into being; understanding; changing and drawing together.


The example below illustrates a poem in Shichigon-zekku form:



Mount Fuji

This great peak above the clouds, where legendary wizards came to work their magic
In the deep pools of whose caverns holy dragons have inhabited from old
When snow overwhelms, and smoke rises up like the hilt of a sword
It is as if a great white fan sits inverted, in the heavens above the eastern sea

Author: Ishikawa Jozan (石川丈山), (1583~1672).

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