Sijo: Poetic Form

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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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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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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: