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Sijo: Poetic Forms

This Korean poetic form shares a similar lineage to haiku, but it's quite different tercet than the very concise Japanese poem. For one thing, it involves many more syllables.

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!

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The Complete Guide of Poetic Forms

Play with poetic forms!

Poetic forms are fun poetic games, and this digital guide collects more than 100 poetic forms, including more established poetic forms (like sestinas and sonnets) and newer invented forms (like golden shovels and fibs).

Click to continue.

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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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