Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Sijo

Originating in Korea, sijo are poems divided into three or six lines. These poems frequently use word play in the form of metaphors, symbols and puns. Here is a description from AHApoetry.
More ancient than haiku, the Korean SIJO shares a common ancestry with haiku, tanka and similar Japanese genres. All evolved from more ancient Chinese patterns.

Sijo is traditionally composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each, totaling between 44-46 syllables. A pause breaks each line approximately in the middle; it resembles a caesura but is not based on metrics.
I'm quite fond of the poems in Linda Sue Park's book Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems. Her sijo are full of little surprises. One of my favorites is entitled Long Division. It is the poem that gives the book its title. Another favorite is the poem below.
Summer Storm

Lightning jerks the sky awake to take her photograph, flash!
Which draws grumbling complaints or even crashing tantrums from thunder--

He hates having his picture taken, so he always gets there late.

How do you write a sijo? Here is a brief summary of the advice Park gives at the end of her book.
Three line poems should contain about 14 to 16 syllables per line. Six line poems should contain 7 or 8 syllables per line.

The first line should contain a single image or idea. The second line should develop this further. The last line should contain the twist. 

So, your challenge this week is to write a sijo. If you need a little inspiration, check out the winning entries in the 2013 Sejong Writing Competition.


  1. I'm so glad you're doing these Poetry Stretches again Tricia. Here's my contribution.


    I speed walked home from school, thunder churned like an upset stomach,

    Inconsistent drops of tears fell from silvery powdered ceiling,

    Cars skied over street-caked puddle ... baptized in sidewalk christening.

    (C) Charles Waters 2013 all rights reserved.

  2. Branch

    Big branch came down in the wind last night. It lies there like a body.
    Leaves turn dry, spread out like hair. Breath stops, the bright shine of green.

    Overhead, a bird sings on living branches. Leaves reach for the sun.

    —Kate Coombs, 2013
    all rights reserved

  3. Nice work, Charles and Kate. Here's mine:

    To the bees rumbling above hydrangeas, high summer is over;
    Though still July, already noon sunlight bends off-angle—

    And a humid westerly wind tangles their pollen contrails.

    —Steven Withrow, 2013
    all rights reserved

  4. Love "thunder churned like an upset stomach" and "pollen contrails"!

  5. Charles, Kate and Steven...all such worthy Sijos. Thanks for this stretch, Tricia. Glad to be back.


    Summer's slow heat blasts through windows, drooping plants like rag dolls.
    They soak up water, like camels feasting at their first oasis.

    Eying teddy bear atop the couch, I give him a sip or two.

    (C) Carol Weis, 2013, all rights reserved