Monday, December 09, 2013

Monday Poetry Stretch - Sijo

Last week the fall semester came to a close. We still have exams and final projects to wade through, but the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter. It wasn't until Friday that I realized I had completely missed the Monday stretch! Not so this week . . .

I'm quite fond of the poems in Linda Sue Park's lovely book Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo Poems. 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.
And here is the description from the jacket flap of Park's book.
What is sijo?
A type of poem that originated in Korea.

But what is it?
A sijo has a fixed number of stressed syllables, usually divided into three or six lines.

Like haiku?
Kind of. But a sijo always has a surprise, an unexpected twist or joke, at the end.
The poems in the book are full of these wonderful surprises. One of my favorites is entitled Long Division. It is the poem that gives the book its title. Another favorite is Summer Storm. It is 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.
Now that you've read a sijo, you'll know that the challenge this week is to write one. 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. 
Park writes:
I try to think of where the poem would logically go if I continued to develop the idea of the first two lines. Once I've figured that out, I write something that goes in the opposite direction--or at least "turns a corner."
I hope you'll join me this week in writing a sijo. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Breath

    Breathe in, breathe out, small weather of your body, do you notice?
    Every second, rising and falling like wind and rain—

    till a great storm comes, and afterwards, everything is still, so still.

    —Kate Coombs, 2013
    all rights reserved

    1. Love the phrase, "small weather of your body," Kate!


    We scarf down sweet treats: Warm breads bathed in sprinkled sugar,
    Fruited glory enveloped in crust, bracketed by Grandmas loving hands.
    Our sugar coma reverie begins in 3, 2, 1 …. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

    (c) Charles Waters 2013 all rights reserved.