Monday, May 16, 2011

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.
You can read some other examples of sijo at the Sejong Writing Competition.

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. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. Delphinium

    Delphinium stretches high, grasping at beams of sunlight,
    and falls, cracking its thin stem as if it were green glass.
    Today the fallen one brandishes perfect blue flowers.

    --Kate Coombs, 2011, all rights reserved

  2. Gorgeous sijo, Kate! Here's my humble attempt:


    The green of May, veiled in dew
    shouts through nosy windowpanes
    come out and play, for I won't
    be here too long, change comes quick.

    Snowflakes drift against muddled sky.
    Where did all the color go?

    © Carol Weis, all rights reserved