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"Sijo" (시조
調 )

The sijo is a traditional Korean poetic form organized (both technically and thematically) by line and syllable count; they are always written in three lines, each averaging 14-16 syllables for a total of 44-46 syllables.

Each line is written in groups of syllables that should be clearly differentiated from the other groups, yet still flow together as a single line. These syllable groups can be made up of one or more words.


The first line is usually written in a 3-4-4-4 grouping pattern and states the theme of the poem, where a situation generally introduced.

The second line is usually written in a 3-4-4-4 pattern (similar to the first) and is an elaboration of the first line's theme or situation (development).

The third line is divided into two sections. The first section, the counter-theme, is grouped as 3-5, while the second part, considered the conclusion of the poem, is written as 4-3. The counter-theme is called the 'twist,' which is usually a surprise in meaning, sound, or other device.


Sijo are primarily songs; they must be phrasal and lyrical while following the syllabic count. Typical sijo themes are often cosmological, metaphysical, or pastoral.

Additionally, the syllabic groupings are not necessarily set in stone – one may vary the grouping slightly, as long as each line still averages out to 14-16 syllables. For example, in the excerpt used here, the first line is grouped as 2-6-4-4 and totals to 16.


Excerpt from "Song of my five friends"

You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine. (2-6-4-4)
The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade. (2-4-4-6)
Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask? (2-5, 5-3)


Sijo Primer by Larry Gross | Read more About Sijo  | Sijo Samples | Sijo References

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