Chicago Public Library and Sejong Cultural Society present
Introduction to Sijo at Harold Washington Library

April 10, 2010 (Saturday)
11 am - 1 pm

Introduction to sijo | David McCann  | About Sijo  | Sijo | Location -Harold Washington Library |
Direction and parking
| Sponsors | Brochure

Other sijo events: | Enchanted Evening of Sijo, Wine and Arts | Sijo Workshop |


Introduction to Sijo

Harold Washington Library CenterApril 10, 2010 (Saturday)
11 am - 1 pm

Chicago Authors Room (7th Floor)
Harold Washington Library Center
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 948-8939

Free Admission - Open to Public

Learn about the traditional Korean poetic form known as the sijo
from Professor David McCann of Harvard University.



David McCann

From the Boston Globe Interview article -

The new haiku?

Harvard professor David McCann says America is ready for sijo

"CAMBRIDGE - The class on writing Asian poetry that Professor David McCann teaches at Harvard includes units on Chinese quatrains, Korean sijo, and Japanese haiku, the last of which is so well-known that McCann’s students had haiku days in middle school. Why, McCann wondered, couldn’t the three-line Korean sijo that he loves enjoy the same widespread recognition as the three-line, 17-syllable haiku?

With that, McCann, a poet and professor of Korean literature, embarked on a mission. He is the founder and chief marketing officer of a campaign to popularize the sijo (pronounced SHEE-jo), a traditional poem of 43 to 45 syllables whose third line contains a twist on the theme developed in the first two.

This spring McCann hosted a sijo festival at Harvard - the first anywhere, he believes, to feature both Korean and English sijo. A sijo contest for middle and high school students which McCann judges attracted 450 entries from two dozen states this year, up from 160 in its 2008 inaugural year. Bo-Leaf Books just published McCann’s “Urban Temple: Sijo, Twisted & Straight,’’ one of the first anthologies of sijo written in English.

“Students who have a haiku day, when they grow up and see a Japanese novel, they’ll be interested,’’ McCann says. “There could also be a sijo day. Children might find sijo something they can try, then one day see a Korean novel translated and say, ‘I can read it.’ ..."
~ Boston Globe .... read full interview



About SIJO

Sijo (Korean Poetry)

"It seems to be the nature of mankind continually to try something new. That is
just as true in poetry as it is in other areas. During the past forty years
or so we have shown increasing interest in Asian verse patterns. The Middle
Eastern ghazal has its devoted followers in the West, and Japanese forms like
haiku, tanka, renga and haibun are now commonly found in small press and
commercial poetry periodicals. Journey through the Internet and you will see
these forms blossoming everywhere. We Westerners have fallen in love with
Asian patterns, patterns that connect us tenuously with ancient cultures so
different from our own.

So it is with the sijo (see-szo or she-szo, with the J pronounced as the
French pronounce Jacques). The roots of this lyrical Korean cousin of haiku
and tanka stretch back well over 1000 years. It has been the most popular
form of lyric verse in Korea for over 500 years, sung equally by Confucian
scholars, members of the royal court and common folk . . .

. . . .Remember the three characteristics that make the sijo unique -- its basic
structure, musical/rhythmic elements, and the twist. It is shorter and more
lyrical than the ghazal. It is more roomy than the haiku, and it welcomes
feelings and emotions which haiku either discourage or disguise. It should
please lovers of ballads, sonnets and lyrics, and the downplay of regular
meter and rhyme should appeal to writers of free verse. In short, it's a
fascinating challenge. Let us see your latest one."

~ Larry Gross, copy from his article on Sijo Primer #1


Korean Classical Sijo Translated
Where pure snow flakes melt
Dark clouds gather threatening
Where are the spring flowers abloom?
A lonely figure lost in the shadow
of sinking sun, I have no place to go.

- Yi Saek (1328–1395), on the decline of Goryeo Kingdom.


The spring breeze melted snow on the hills then quickly disappeared.
I wish I could borrow it briefly to blow over my hair
And melt away the aging frost forming now about my ears.

- U Tak (1262–1342)


동지달 기나긴 밤을 한 허리를 버혀 내여
춘풍 이불 아래 서리허리 넣었다가
어른 님 오신 날 밤이여드란 구비구비 펴리라
I will break the back of this long, midwinter night,
Folding it double, cold beneath my spring quilt,
That I may draw out the night, should my love return.

- Hwang Jin-i (1522–1565) A famous female Korean sijo poet who was also a kisaeng, a professional entertainer.


Sijo written in English


I’ll admit it isn’t your fault,
        I made you up from mind mist;
Before you could be you
        I made you what I thought I wanted.
That wasn’t it – who could have known?
        Wait – Maybe you could try this …

Bark on the oak in the backyard
             has scars over my scars;
ladder steps lead nowhere now,
            swing rope has furrowed the old branch
How strong it makes us for a while –
            the world we make – before it goes.

I bring him water in the field,
            stand to watch him plant the corn,
remembering all he learned from me,
            how to till, when to harvest;
Beyond that, to treasure land and God,
            knowing all things die.


slow piano piece drifting soft on humid summer air
high above a smooth ballet unfolds between white fluffy clouds
restless now I will myself to soar with notes and gulls

late summer days are soft with light and rich with floral scent
gentle breezes lift birdsong that serenade warm moments green
be still oh northern spirit – long frosty veils fall soon enough

Oh to know the languages
  of all the peoples of the world
Harmonies await the ear
  to solve all mysteries of tongues
Yet warm eyes open each closed door
  smiles unfold blithe messages



All through lunch, from my table, I keep an eye on your disputes,
Green lobsters in the bubbling tank by the restaurant door.
Slights, fights, bites—whatever the cause, make peace and flee, escape with me!


more sijo


Location - Harold Washington Library Center (Chicago Public Library System)


Harold Washington Library Center
Chicago Authors Room (7th Floor)
400 S. Sate Street
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 747-4300

Harold Washington Library website

Harold Washington Library
             Harold Washington Library Center

Chicago Authors Room
Chicago Authors Room (7th floor)

Harold Washington Library Center
The Winter Garden (10th floor)
Photo by Antonio Dickey


The Harold Washington Library Center opened October 7, 1991.
Thomas H. Beeby and his colleagues in the firm Hammond, Beeby and Babka, as a part of the Sebus Group, won a design/build competition for Chicago's new Central Library in June of 1988.
This 756,640 square foot neo-classical building appeared in The Guinness Book of Records as the largest public library building in the world.




Direction and Parking

View Larger Map


Easily accessible by public transportation, the Harold Washington Library Center occupies one block in the South Loop on the west side of State Street between Congress Parkway and Van Buren.

  • Brown Line (Ravenswood) stops at the Library station
  • Purple Line (Evanston Express) stops at the Library station
  • Orange Line (Midway) stops at the Library station
  • Pink Line stops at the Library Station
  • Red Line (Howard-Dan Ryan) subway stops at State and Jackson. Exit at Van Buren and walk 1 block south.
  • Blue Line (O'Hare Airport-Forest Park 54/Cermak) stops at Dearborn and Jackson. Exit at Van Buren and walk 1 block south and 1 block east.
  • Green Line (Harlem/Lake Street-Ashland/63rd) Change to northbound Orange Line at Roosevelt road.

CTA buses which stop on State Street in front of the Library:

source: Harold Washington Library website


Nearby Parking

The following list represents some of the parking facilities within convenient walking distance of the Harold Washington Library Center (HWLC).

CPS Parking
645 S. Wabash
651 S. State
(312) 578-1660
Park One
18 E. Van Buren
410 S. Wabash
434 S. Wabash
525 S. Wabash
605 S. Wabash
601 S. Dearborn
708 S. State
711 S. Plymouth Court
(312) 396-1900
318 S. Federal
(312) 986-5813
Loop Auto Park
524 S. Wabash
(312) 922-1499
Plymouth Court Garage
711 S. Plymouth Court
(312) 922-0020
7th Street Garage
710 S. Wabash
(312) 427-4068
System Parking
331 S. Plymouth Court
(312) 236-2904
Valet Parking
412 S. Dearborn

source: Harold Washington Library website





This program is funded by a grant from the Korea Foundation and
a supported by the Korean Consulate General in Chicago

Link to Korea Foundation       Link to Korean Consulate General in Chicago





Sejong Cultural Society is 501(c) 3 non-profit organization created in the State of Illinois in August, 2004.

About Sejong Cultural Society