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Sijo: Poetic Form

Categories: Poetic Forms, Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides Blog, What's New.

While the sijo poetic form is new to Poetic Asides, it is actually older than haiku. This Korean poetic form is only three lines long, but a lot is packed into those three lines. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • 3 lines in length, averaging 14-16 syllables per line (for a poem total of 44-46 syllables).
  • Line 1 introduces the situation or theme of the poem.
  • Line 2 develops the theme with more detail or a “turn” in argument.
  • Line 3 presents a “twist” and conclusion.

That’s a quick overview, but it can get a lot more involved. Here are some more things to consider:

  • Sijo are meant to be songs, so this form is more lyrical.
  • Poems can be profound, humorous, metaphysical, and personal.
  • Each line should have a pause (or break) somewhere in the middle.
  • First half of the final line employs a “twist” of meaning, sound, or another poetic device.

With me so far? Sijo are lyrical and meant to be sung, so even the lines have a traditional syllable break:

  • Line 1: 3-4-4-4
  • Line 2: 3-4-4-4
  • Line 3: 3-5-4-3

This last part is a good goal to aspire achieving, but it’s more flexible than the overall syllable count per line and poem. Whew!

Here’s an example sijo that I wrote:

“Orbit”

I tell her we’re always alone, but she says we’re together
the same as the moon spins with the earth around the sun.
If they weren’t together, she tells me, we would not be alive.

*****

If you want more resources on sijo, check these out:

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Want more poetic forms?

The 2014 Poet’s Market lists hundreds of publishing opportunities for poets AND a fair number of poetic forms, including sestina, monotetra, ghazal, and more!

Click to continue.

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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of Writer’s Digest Writing Community and editor of Poet’s Market. So he’s a little biased when he says it’s an amazing resource for poets, but it doesn’t mean that he’s wrong. He’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems and a former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere. He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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Here are a few more poetic posts:

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About Robert Lee Brewer

Senior Content Editor, Writer's Digest Community.

70 Responses to Sijo: Poetic Form

  1. artsywriter80 says:

    ANGEL
    I feel so empty and alone without her by my side
    Then I know anytime I look up into the sky
    She will always be there to guide me throughout each day and night.

  2. artsywriter80 says:

    FIRST TIME
    So much passion inside that I can barely catch my breath
    The warmth of his touch flows throughout my entire body
    If this is what love feels like I never want it to stop.

  3. artsywriter80 says:

    MIRROR
    As I see my reflection staring straight back at me
    I can’t help but feel shame and contempt for the person I see
    So stop listening to what others say for it is now a brand new day.

  4. Nancy Posey says:

    Charm

    He always held that lucky buckeye in his right front pocket
    Passed down from his grand father to his father and then to him.
    He wondered, as he fingered it, whether the luck was good or bad.

  5. bjzeimer says:

    Earth Sijo

    How lovely, this planet, its surface shadowed, with forest green
    and blue surround, the big harvest moon, the red glow of a setting sun.
    For of this kind, who would think, that Earth came, from a big bang?

  6. bjzeimer says:

    Earth Sijo

    How lovely this planet, its surface shadowed with forest green
    and blue surround, the harvest moon, the red glow of a setting sun.
    For of this kind who would think, that Earth came from a big bang?

  7. cmariee says:

    Looking up

    Remembered lies on broken words of glass that cut through me
    Through naïve and youthful days you and your words just walked away
    You left me, but our pain is not the real story. And I’m sorry.

  8. Clae says:

    I planned to write comments on each piece I enjoyed but soon
    it became clear that would take all year Instead I wrote these lines
    to say all sijo seen today are clearly by Master Poets

  9. phenomenon says:

    The night sky…………

    Lying here looking at the natural beauty around me
    The stars in all its glory and the moon shining bright
    Realizing with a jolt that my friends have thrown me outside the tent

  10. Domino says:

    I lie here; grass is my bed. I’ve chosen this place to stargaze.
    Moon dark sky, stars brightly blaze; undimmed by much save these few tears.
    I will stay, perhaps, for the night. I can’t leave your grave unmourned.

    Diana Terrill Clark

  11. MayamotoWaya says:

    I can see the change in your eyes, as you gaze towards the skies
    In parallel the universe you see – won’t be itself again
    When revolution is nature, how could I resent your fresh stare?

  12. Af10ski says:

    Lie:

    Tell a Lie, but tell it Flat
    Truth in Degrees is He’ll bent
    It’s all the Same to Lie

  13. writinglife16 says:

    Her mother dragged the kindergarten pictures out to show.
    Her date froze as he looked at her in a brown, onesie with cap.
    She fell in love when he said, “I will buy you chocolates daily.”

  14. Tracy Davidson says:

    Cocktails

    For our twins sixteenth birthday, we serve non-alcoholic cocktails,
    complete with pink umbrellas, and novelty shaped ice cubes.
    My daughter finds a penis in her virgin ‘Sex on the Beach’.

  15. PowerUnit says:

    Upon us heap lots of pain for without it we will not gain
    Open doors but blind our eyes make us look for stars in the skies
    Beat our will with your biggest stick but we all know your little trick

  16. BezBawni says:

    VESPERTINE MELANCHOLY

    When night is drawing closer, moving faster than light goes off,
    then hearts are growing heavy, getting lonely, then thoughts are dark.
    We’re seven billion, living in packs, howling at the moon.

  17. cholder says:

    I chose the 6-line style!

    Murder at Chain of Rocks Bridge

    Chain of Rocks your secrets keep
    what remains beneath buried deep.
    My heart bleeds forsaken one;
    justice serves no retribution.
    The mighty Mississippi weeps
    over her watery grave.

  18. cholder says:

    I chose the 6-line style!

    Murder at Chain of Rocks Bridge

    Chain of Rocks your secrets keep
    what remains beneath buried deep.
    My heart bleeds forsaken one;
    justice serves no retribution.
    The mighty Mississippi weeps
    over her watery grave.

  19. JRSimmang says:

    WHEN WE SPEAK, WE SPEAK HEAT

    The old muse and I, expectedly (always), have been in
    deliberations. Once we started yelling at each other
    we had to take separate walks. Why does she challenge us so?

    -JR Simmang, in quiet anticipation of the next PA Challenge

  20. RJ Clarken says:

    Evening Commute

    Silhouette: vermillion sky, India-inked wintery limbs…
    An unknown artist must have magic in his ancient pen nibs
    Sitting in the twilight traffic: through my windshield, I trace the strokes.

    ###

  21. swatchcat says:

    Screaming

    I’m screaming, spinning through the day, trying to find my way
    Screaming, let me go away, I’m painted black all filled with decay
    What would I do if it wasn’t for you, you leave me screaming

  22. “The gallery”

    Invite me to your palette. Your life without dwelling or time.
    Lazy stars paint in discord like hieroglyphs spilling over.
    You are art—a spring of intrigue and I am your artisan.

  23. PressOn says:

    FRUSTRATION

    There it is again. “You are posting comments too quickly.
    Slow down.” This happens repeatedly, on and on and on.
    I haven’t felt this way since I tried swimming in pudding.

  24. Amy says:

    Dreaming of Sleep

    Your breath breaks on the cotton pillowcase, as gentle waves.
    I long for the peace that wraps you in dreams, contentedly,
    but settle, instead, between inked pages, where dreams content me.

  25. David says:

    Freefall

    By David De Jong

    Leaves are chanting, gathering, drawing their sabers with sharpened edge
    Charging forward, in clustered columns, with battle cries of revolt
    Angry winds shake their timbered fist, their members refusing retreat

  26. Ann M says:

    The rain, falling on ice and snow, bares frozen mid-winter soil.
    The orchid, bowing over the windowsill, is a light in the room.
    If I have to write today, which scene is going to be my muse?

  27. Amy says:

    Moonlight

    If I could hold the moon upon my face, let the light trace
    exposed planes and hidden hollows, would your hand follow in its
    quest? You whisper your assent, or perhaps it’s just the breeze.

  28. elishevasmom says:

    Sucker Punched

    My dad has cancer—maybe two months to live. I knew he’s been sick.
    I thought I was ready for whatever the news would be.
    But that kind of ready? There is no such thing.

    Ellen Evans 1.17.14
    a “sijo” for PA

  29. Misky says:

    Music fills my last dream before I drift awake.
    Each note is a rainstorm, a maelstrom in its volume.
    I turn, I wake, as music becomes a traffic report.

  30. PressOn says:

    THE END OF THE HUNT

    As a tinge of orange flows along the morning horizon
    and the color promises the coming of another day,
    owl takes her final silent flight; day breaks with a final scream.

  31. bclay says:

    A Cold Night

    There you are, reading my books, Neruda and Joseph Campbell,
    in poems, of Bukowski, Dickinson and red wheelbarrows –
    you find me, in meter and verse; will you ever read my own?

  32. PowerUnit says:

    Father said you will succeed if you work hard and plow ahead
    Mother said he did not know the modern world from his own past
    Be yourself, do what you should do according to your secret dreams

  33. priyajane says:

    Misty clouds,sleepily, hover in the warm in-betweens
    of the hills, – as I gather and separate my drifting thoughts
    with the scrawny timber, half awake, — hanging on to love and ache

  34. IN HONOR OF MY DAUGHTERS

    In the winter of our years we take pride in knowing
    the tree of life lives on in your development and growth,
    full of knowledge and purpose to grow and prosper.

  35. lionetravail says:

    Kittens seem, to me, to be a form of meditation.
    Hours pass in soft repose as gentle purrs massage like “oms”,
    And random, sleepy thoughts crystallize into “chakra and awwww”.

  36. First Date

    We had every reason to hail a cab — rain, uneven
    concrete, expectations of a kiss in the warm dark back —
    instead you flexed your fingers against my palm. We glistened like dreams.

  37. Richard Fenwick says:

    The old man and I cut the pine boughs in silence
    Red-brown below but the color of moss high above
    Where the angry old songbird trills a mysterious dirge.

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