Saturday, August 24, 2013

Carpe Diem's Little Ones #3,

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Another new week lays ahead of us and I love to share a new episode of Carpe Diem's "Little Ones" with you all. This feature is meant to be for short poetry forms different or related to haiku. So today I would like to introduce another short form of poetry to you SIJO an ancient Korean short poetry form.

Sijo share a common history with haiku and other Japanese forms. Sijo is a modern term for a Korean style of lyrical poetry, originally called tanga (literally, "short song"). The sijo strongly resembles Japanese haiku in having a strong foundation in nature in a short profound structure. Bucolic, metaphysical and astronomical themes are often explored. The lines average 14-16 syllables, for a total of 44-46. There is a pause in the middle of each line, so in English they are sometimes printed in six lines instead of three. Most poets follow these guidelines very closely although there are longer examples. Either narrative or thematic, this lyric verse introduces a situation or problem in line 1, development (called a turn) in line 2, and a strong conclusion beginning with a surprise (a twist) in line 3, which resolves tensions or questions raised by the other lines and provides a memorable ending. An example by Kwon Homun (1532-1587): :

"The wind is pure and clear,
the moon is pure and bright.

The bamboo grove within the pines
is pure of worldly cares:

But a lute and piles of scrolls
can make it purer still"

Credits: Bamboo Groove

Another example by Yi Saek (1328-1396):

"the white snow has left the valleys 
where the clouds are lowering

Is it true that somewhere
the plum tress have happily blossomed?

I stand here alone in the dusk 
and do not know where to go"

Credits: Plum Trees

Korean poetry can be traced at least as far back as King Yuri's Song of Yellow Birds (17BC), but its roots are in still earlier Chinese quatrains. Sijo, Korea's favorite poetic genre, is often traced to Confucian monks of the eleventh century, but its roots, too, are in those earlier forms. Its greatest flowering occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. 
Sijo is, first and foremost, a song. This lyric pattern gained popularity in royal courts as a vehicle for religious or philosophic expression, but a parallel tradition arose among the 'common' folk. Sijo were sung or chanted with musical accompaniment, and still are. In fact, the word originally referred only to the music, but it has come to be identified with the lyric as well.
The poet should not lose sight of three basic characteristics that make the sijo unique: its structure, its musical/rhythmic elements, and the twist which begins the final line. For best results, poets follow these and other guidelines very closely. (sources: Wonder Haiku Worlds and Asian Poetry, the Sijo

My first attempt to write a Sijo I love to share here with you all.

Cherry trees blossoming 
for the very first time

spreading their branches,
reaching for the sun

thunderstorms raging,
fragile blossoms scattered

Well ... I think I am gonna like this new poetry form from the Far East. What do you think about this Sijo?

This episode of Carpe Diem's "Little Ones" will stay on 'till September 8th 11.59 AM (CET). The goal for this episode is to write a Sijo, but you also may share another short poetry-form e.g. Pi-ku or Acrostic haiku. Just have fun, be inspired and share your "Little One" with our haiku community.


  1. I loved to write sijo when we did it at dVerse. I think it's a form lending itself to a complex simplicity that's lovely. You did great on yours Kristjaan. I did a cinquain which combines the Asian poetry with classic European.. I hope it's Ok. I'm very behind with commenting and I hope to find time for that.

  2. Lovely introduction ... I will try to add one before the time is up! Thank you for sharing with us. :)