Editors Blog

Sijo: Poetic Form

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.

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

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Want more poetic forms?

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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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70 thoughts on “Sijo: Poetic Form

  1. artsywriter80

    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

    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

    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. bjzeimer

    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?

  5. bjzeimer

    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?

  6. cmariee

    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.

  7. Clae

    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

  8. phenomenon

    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

  9. Domino

    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

  10. MayamotoWaya

    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?

  11. writinglife16

    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.”

  12. Tracy Davidson

    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’.

  13. PowerUnit

    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

  14. BezBawni

    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.

  15. cholder

    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.

  16. cholder

    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.

  17. JRSimmang

    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

  18. RJ Clarken

    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.

    ###

  19. swatchcat

    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

  20. PressOn

    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.

  21. Amy

    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.

  22. David

    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

  23. Ann M

    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?

  24. Amy

    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.

  25. elishevasmom

    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

  26. PressOn

    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.

  27. bclay

    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?

  28. priyajane

    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

  29. lionetravail

    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”.

  30. Richard Fenwick

    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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