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…

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