{pf: poetry peeps do the dodoitsu}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!


You’re invited to our challenge in the month of April! Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? So for the month of April, we’ve set ourselves a challenge to write in the style of teacher-turned-poet, Taylor Mali. If you’re unfamiliar, you’ve got time to get to know a bit of his work. Have a poem of his in mind? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your “in-the-style-of” creation(s), whatever that means to you, then share your offering on April 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag . Can’t wait to see what you come up with!


We don’t often attempt a poetry form that I’ve never even heard of, but this month’s Dodoitsu was a new one for me. The Dodoitsu (都々逸) is a form of Japanese poetry developed towards the end of the Edo period, which ended in 1868, a time when the world – and Japan – was on the cusp of huge changes. Often concerning love or work, and usually comical, Dodoitsu wasn’t seen as a the classical poetry once the sole work of educated elites, but it was the form of the people. With a brief syllabic pattern of 7-7-7-5, it was an accessible, clever, and simple – something illiterate folk could make up and recite, too.

Choosing to pair this egalitarian poetic form with the imagery of the ekphrastic gave us scope to do something whimsical and fun. Most of us dug into our cameras and came up with a random image and were ready to go, but inevitably, the pattern of syllables was a little stickier than expected – mainly because with the plethora of seven syllable lines to begin with, it felt like almost enough syllables to be too many. It’s funny how one becomes accustomed to a greater number of lines with fewer syllables! I played with closing the poem with a single five-syllable word, but it’s difficult to make that sensical… but I tried!

We noticed that something about the form produced stories in us – maybe it’s just that the poems have to do with themes of love or work and those seem to bring out anecdotes? But almost all of our original drafts had… characters in them. Mine are no exception:

(Honestly, how often do you get to use a five-syllable word in a poem? HARDLY EVER. And certainly not that one.)

(And yes, I noticed that I had a brick wall theme going on – only after I’d written both poems. I should have made them relate more obviously. Oh, well – we’ll say the first poem depicts coworkers in a big company, one of whom has a silent crush, the other of whom remains wildly oblivious. Now we know why – with this level of a group project gone awry, someone is going to be working some MAJOR overtime… Oh, well, maybe she’ll drop him off a snack since he has to work late…)

(With apologies to the memory of Mrs. Allen, at whom I really stare in disbelief the first time I got red envelope money…!)

I’m intrigued to see how everyone else has done dodoitsu-ing. Laura’s poem is here, and Tricia’s trio of poems is here. Sara’s poem is here, Andromeda’s is here,, and Liz’s poem is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poems are here. Intriguingly, Michelle K is using some familiar pictures, and Linda B’s poem is here. Plenty more Poetry Peeps may check in before the weekend is over, so stay tuned and I’ll add links as I find them.


Happy Poetry Friday! We’re hosted today by Amy at the Poem Farm, where today she’s probably harvesting poetry with more syllables. Thanks for rounding us up, Amy. Meanwhile, whether you’re faced with brick walls or other recalcitrant things, know that eventually Spring breaks through, persistence pays off, and flowers can grow through a crack in concrete. Keep going, friends.

17 Replies to “{pf: poetry peeps do the dodoitsu}”

  1. Splendiferous post Tanita, filled with knowledge, smiles, humor, and I love the dark undertones in that two dollar bill pic along with “(MY MOTHER’S FREQUENT SAYINY)” wise (Mom) woman to pass that on to you–Fun, thanks Tanita!!!

  2. Tanita, it took me a while to get here but my eyes have been on overdrive from my right eye cataract surgery. Vocabulary is your way of delivering a proper ending. Got to love your 5-syllable words with a punch. I would have loved to seen what perspicacious brought to the table, even as a scrap. This format needed a good deal of massaging with humor being added. Love what you did with your poems. Incredulously needs a poem home. Thanks for the challenges each month.

  3. These were all so fine, Tanita, although it’s hard not to fall at the feet of “throw in the trowel”… you clever poet!!
    Also???? I had to look up amanuensis! So, a good day’s work!

  4. Hoo hoo hee hee haaaa “We threw in the trowel”! The brick wall poems were all my favorite but that line is plumb hilarious. You clearly enjoyed this exercise; I prescribe more dodoitsucize.

  5. Well done, Tanita! (Love “throw in the trowel”!) And way to make a challenging form even more difficult by incorporating 5-syllable words. I imagine you would have fun writing double dactyls too, with all those crazy rules. Especially the 6th line that is supposed to be a single *6*-syllable double dactyl word. Ha! It’s a puzzle for sure, but so much fun.

  6. Thanks for the vocabulary lesson! And for “throw in the trowel,” which made me snort! I really do think I need to take the poems that go with the wall from the Open Air School to Emmett’s (the restaurant that live there now) and see if they want to create a gallery or a community challenge to add to ours!

  7. Fun to learn about a new form, and yes, you nailed those 5 syllable words. These stack up quite nicely, brick by brick. Seriously, who ever heard of amanuensis? Yet I now know someone who actually used it in a poem. . .

  8. Absolute delight! I am giggling at the two dollar bill, remembering Great Aunt Helen giving them to our children. And “We threw in the trowel” got me too. May the chalk send the message!! Thank you for these today. I loved seeing the different words that grew from each photo… Happy Poetry Friday!

  9. I love the word amanuensis and think it’s fabulous here! I also laughed out loud at “throw in the trowel.” And Andi is right, you nailed it with the 5-syllable words.

    1. @Tricia Stohr-Hunt: I admit I wrote the entire poem just to use that line. I also thought about using perspicacious – another word I loved learning to spell (and promptly forgetting, spell-check tells me), but I couldn’t quite make the poem gel. Next time!

    1. @saralewisholmes: Thanks! And, I’m not a graphics guru – this was just fiddling around with Publisher (or Powerpoint? one of those. Even Canva sometimes it gets on my nerves.) You’ll learn by doing, just like I did.

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