Short Verse Forms 3 – Sijo

December 2004


Introduction by Larry Gross

SIJO (see-szo or she-szo, pronouncing the J as the French pronounce Jacques). Roots of this lyrical Korean cousin of haiku and tanka stretch back over 2000 years, to early Chinese forms. It has been the predominant Korean verse for 500 years, originally as song lyrics and later as an independent poetry genre. It is traditionally composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each, totaling 44-46. Each line is broken rhythmically into four quarters semantically and syntactically, with each quarter containing 3-5 syllables.
There is a major pause in the middle, with minor pauses between the other segments. Lines are end-stopped, with the first line presenting an event or situation, the second line providing development. The final line begins with a surprising twist and concludes the verse. For practical purposes, in English the three lines are frequently broken at the midpoint to form six lines.

From an old bench I watch them together at the playground swing.
A gleaming boy sends her higher, her eyes laughing as she soars.
My mind goes back to a time when love was there but had no name.

they knew just how to work the land and when to husk new corn
they knew herbs for every ill, the fitting depth of a root cellar
do they smile down on what I reap, strange fruits of city labors

The royal flamingo, if it must, eats the muck it walks on.
The sedge wren builds a dummy nest to draw the hawk from hatchlings.
I summon them here, but my lines are not the stuff they feed on.

A welcome weekend at Cedar Key,
relaxing on the dock;
pelicans wait poker-faced
for bait fish we may leave behind.
Bob away, line, while I watch the sun
going back to water.

Larry Gross, USA


The precipice towers
above the rampaging river;

White kids like heedless children
cavort among boiling clouds.

My ears echo the river,
knees tremor from the high pressure.

Elizabeth Howard, US
Grand Prix Dressage; the horse unfazed by flapping flags and fans.
His eye attentive, dark as coal, floating strides barely dent the sand.
This proud emblem for his country adds a throb to every heart.


It would be dreadful sad
to never sniff the air for balsam,

nor hear loons call on foggy nights
or squish through tidal mud for clams.

I am glad, wicked* glad,
to live on Maine’s granite shore.

*”wicked” is a common expression in Maine for “very, very”.


Infinities of yellow flames
light my way through mirrored halls.

Reflected thus, hand held high,
a mirage twines through echoes.

Until I stop, dousing the candle;
fearful of the future.

Kirsty Karkow, US


I watch him watch the thinning crowd
in the dingy bus station

their footsteps gradually fade
heading towards the setting sun

long wait over, I see him leave
the white roses on the bench


I remember those rosy years
when it seemed eternally spring

our mutual love for each other
grew stronger with each passing day

now that she’s gone and I’m alone
how do you hug emptiness?

Victor P. Gendrano, US

How gently the moonlight disperses sleep, filters all my dreams.
I quicken to dew’s dankness, ponder how it presses tender leaves.
Soft comes dawn for her pas de deux; I remember breathing you.

Dina E. Cox, CA

Such soft words you whisper to me
as sunset lowers its garments,

fallen among orchard fruits,
the moon tangled in prickly gorse.

Wherefore, is the entrance to Hades
any deeper than the heart?


What’s this sway of sea flowers
underneath the moon’s fixed stare?

So smooth the sound of your voice,
genteel words gliding over me.

A bouquet of wine upon my lips,
the night I dared to dream.

Karina Klesko, US

Overlooking a full valley,
ancient winds fondle her hair.

While the sun’s pulse arouses,
her spirit releases the wild.

From burning breasts of autumn,
her soul flows with the river.


Come with me to the old bookstore,
nestled on Main Street downtown.

Where quiet cats follow your cue,
to creaky wooden floors of dust.

We’ll surrender to aromas
of old coffee and doughnuts.

b’oki (Bette Wappner) US

This entry was posted in Poetry, Vol 4-1 December 2004 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Short Verse Forms 3 – Sijo

  1. qualandar says:

    Reblogged this on All Poetry Magazine.

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