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Deborah Guzzi travels for inspiration: China, Nepal [during the civil war], Japan, Egypt [two weeks before ‘The Arab Spring’], and most recently Peru. First published at the age of sixteen, she writes articles for Massage and Aroma Therapy Magazines. Her poetry has been accepted in the Literary Journals of Western CT. University, Inclement Magazine, Pyrokinections, Jellyfish Whispers, Grey Wolf’s Summer Legends Anthology, The Germ, Wilderness Literary Review, The Anthology Sweet Dreams & Night Terrors, Bitterzoet Magazine, haiku journal, Contemporary Haibun Online, Bella on line, The Autumn Sound, Eskimo Pie, and Ribbons, The Inwood Indiana Review, Five Poetry, Tanka Society of America Journal, and 50 haiku. She has published two illustrated volumes of poetry, The Healing Heart and Heaven and Hell in a Nutshell.

The Lovely Sijo

Blog Posted:8/19/2013 6:05:00 PM
Below you will find examples of
Traditional Korean Sijo (pre-20th century)

Translated verses

A shadow strikes the water below:
                     a monk passes by on the bridge,
“Stay awhile, reverend sir,
                     let me ask you where you go.”
He just points his staff at the white clouds
                     and keeps on his way without turning.

Chung Chul (1536-1593)

*note how there are 3 lines in Korean but not in the translation? interesting!

If everyone were a government official,
                     would there be any farmers?
                If doctors cured all disease,
                     would graveyards be as they are?
                Boy, fill the glass to the brim;
                     I’ll live my life as I please.

Kim Chang-Up (1658-1721)

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-Taek (1262-1342)

Soaring high though a mountain may be,
                     it is a mere mound beneath Heaven
                Climb and climb,
                     and no summit cannot be reached
                Yet people stay at its base
                     saying the mountain is too high.

Yang Sa Eun (1517-1584)

Jade Green Stream, Don’t boast so proud
                     of your easy passing through these blue hills
                Once you have reached the broad sea,
                     to return again will be hard,
                While the Bright Moon fills these empty hills,
                     why not pause? Then go on, if you will.

Hwang Chin-I (1506-1544)

I will break the back of this long, midwinter night,
                Folding it double, fold beneath my spring quilt,
                That I may draw out the night, should my love return.

Hwang Chin-I (1506-1544)

Green grass covers the valley.
                     Do you sleep?  Are you at rest?
                O where is that lovely face?
                     Can mere bones lie buried here?
                I have wine, but no chance to share it.
                     Alone, I pour it sadly.

Im Che (1549-1587)
-written at Hwang Chin-I's grave

My horse neighs to leave here now, but you plead with me to stay;
                the sun is dipping behind the hill, and I have far to go.
                Dear One, instead of stopping me, why not hold back the setting sun?


Could the thousand branches of a green willow capture the fleeting springtime wind?
                What could butterflies do to prevent the flowers they love from withering?
                No matter how great one’s love, how could it make a leaving flame stay?

Yi Wonik (1547-1634)

If my tears were made of pearls,
                     I would catch them all and save them.
                When you came back ten years later,
                     a jeweled castle should enthrone you.
                But these tears leave no trace at all.
                     So I am left desolate


If on the pathways of dreams
                     a footprint could leave a mark,
                The road by your window
                     though rough with rocks,
                     would soon wear smooth.
                But in dreams paths take no footprints.
                     I mourn the more for that.

Yi Myunghan (1595-1645)

Fisherman's Calendar

                  I drank and lay back;
                     the boat carried me down through the shallows.
                          Secure the boat, secure the boat!
                Pink petals floated near;
                     Towon itself must have been near.
                          Chigukch’ong,  chigukch’ong,  osawa!
                Red dust of the world -
                     how far away it seemed.

                 I look for my snail-shell hut,
                     it is hidden in white clouds.
                          Tie the boat fast, tie the boat fast!
                Exchange my rod for a bullrush fan
                     as we start to climb the rock-path.
                          Chigukch’ong,  chigukch’ong,  osawa!
                Did you think I lived idly?
                     This is a fisherman’s life.

                  A silent snow fell last night,
                     so I woke to a bright new world.
                          Work the oars, work the oars!
                A sea of glass surrounds me;
                     further on the jade mountains rise.
                          Chigukch’ong,  chigukch’ong,  osawa!
                Fairyland perhaps? Nirvana?
                     Surely not a world of men.

Yun Sundo (1587-1671)
-'chigukch'ong' is a form of onomatopoeia

I did not know Korea was so beautiful, did you?

My only association with Korea before the poetry of sijo was the Korean War, and the old concept of the domino theory?

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  1. Date: 8/26/2013 4:35:00 AM
    Hi Deb, I am writing to you after a long time. I just came back on 24th and the first blog I read was yours. I have already composed Sedoka and am composing Sijo. I travelled to Korea long back and has written a poem "Scenes of Korea" I hope you are enjoying visit there.

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 5:21:00 PM
    There is a sense of delicacy with the sijo that one almost wants to whisper it, and that is what appeals to me the most the most! These examples are breathtaking.....and do tell a story in the most simple of ways.... and then the turn around, the re-telling is an art to write, not as easy as it looks.

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    p.iNk Avatar binibining p.iNk Date: 8/20/2013 8:03:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Hi Carrie! After I logged off, was still thinking of sijo, I wanted to add in how 'delicate' Sijo sounded- a certain mellowness to it and yes almost compelling one to speak it softly. But I got lazy, pressing on itty itty keys to go back then. So imagine my delight to see what you said here, I totally agree with you! :)
  1. Date: 8/20/2013 5:00:00 PM
    I know I'm not up on the philosophy behind this poem, but am struggling to get into it. Deb, how about you and Andrea, take a look at one I just put on the soup. Is sijo 1 roasting. I so appreciate this blog Debs, have been wanting to delve into this genre before now but love to procrastinate. No, have just been too wrapped up in haiku to explore others. But, I do have three sijo in my files now. I think.

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 3:15:00 PM
    GREAT Andie! Another thing to think of is since most publishers DON'T want rhyme, this isn't rhyme and can be used just as easily to tell a story!

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 2:30:00 PM
    I've always liked sijo, Debs, but I did a dodoitsu which fit my theme better. Just haven't posted it yet!

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 12:31:00 PM
    Wonderful blog you have here, Debbie! I remember being intrigued with this form, and of how I asked Chris about Sijo before, and my thanks to him, I got a better insight to it. Been a while since I went on Sijo mode, so to speak (ok, my attempt to be on that mode), and seeing your blog reminded me how challenging yet fun it was. Yup, I think it can be quite a challenge to try to write one's Sijo in English to make it sound more lyrical (how I wish I knew how to speak Korean), there's just really so much more to this form than following certain syllable counts. What I like about this form is of how it also employs a twist, I can be a sucker for that. And yes, it sure is interesting how it can also make use of spacing...definitely so much more to delve into this form than what meets the eye.

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    p.iNk Avatar binibining p.iNk Date: 8/20/2013 8:05:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Guzzi Avatar Debbie Guzzi Date: 8/20/2013 2:17:00 PM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    thank YOU little monkey!! I hope to get one from you soon!
  1. Date: 8/20/2013 7:13:00 AM
    Hey Andie glad the form is growing on you!!! I bet you'll birth a beauty!

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 7:10:00 AM
    Thank you Su, yes meant to be sung or accompanied by music yet you and I know all good poetry can be sung! Hell, look at the bad poetry that is sung [like rap...Debbie dives under the table]

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    Manassian Avatar Eileen Manassian Date: 8/20/2013 7:51:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    HA HA HA HA HA HA! Shall I post, I am the Queen of RAP to annoy you, DEBBIE! HA HA! My daughter was SOOOO embarrassed when I performed it for her friends! Don't you go and goad me into doing it!
  1. Date: 8/20/2013 7:07:00 AM
    Dear Eileen JUST write do not judge yourself before you have even let yourself go FLY on the wings of the joy you feel!! [time enough to be a judgemental mother after you have given birth LOL BUT please not before!!!]

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    Manassian Avatar Eileen Manassian Date: 8/20/2013 7:42:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

  1. Date: 8/20/2013 7:05:00 AM
    How fantastic Chris!!! I'm coping to save for myself your explanation and I am beyond thrilled when you seriously teach! Perhaps you know if or which tropes are used in sijo? metaphor, simile? assonance? maybe all the common ones? And the content is SUBJECTIVE even if the root is Japanese..yes?

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 6:56:00 AM
    Debbie...I TRIED to write one....Shall I give you a look see before I post it to save me infinite embarrassment? ;) Waiting to hear from ya! Hugs!

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    Manassian Avatar Eileen Manassian Date: 8/20/2013 9:02:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Guzzi Avatar Debbie Guzzi Date: 8/20/2013 7:12:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    your excitement is a joy, never be embarrassed by trying to learn to me it's embarrassing to be ignorant and NOT try!
  1. Date: 8/20/2013 6:48:00 AM
    These remind me of tanka poetry that has been expanded to allow more details, and they read like short free verse. I liked them, Debs. They are examples of reflective and descriptive poetry.

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 5:54:00 AM
    These are amazing Debbie and timeless!

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 3:32:00 AM
    Thank you Debbie for sharing this delightful poetry with us. Relaxing with a cup of coffee and some poetry - what more can one ask for? Sijo is, first and foremost, a song. This lyric pattern gained popularity in royal courts amongs the yangban as a vehicle for religious or philosophical expression, but a parallel tradition arose among the commoners. Sijo were sung or chanted with musical accompaniment, and this tradition survives. The word originally referred only to the music, but it has come to be identified with the lyrics. For more information, you may download the notes on my Free Download page at (an external link is supplied). Love, Su

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  1. Date: 8/20/2013 2:02:00 AM
    DEBBIE DEBBIE DEBBIE DEBBIE....I'm FLYING!!! WHAT BEAUTY!!!! Oh OH OH!!! I can't wait to show these to my Korean friends. I loved the mountain one, and the one about the tears being pearls, and the dream one, and the one about holding back the sun and and and.....Debbie...Thank you for broadening my mind. Thank you!!!! I would love to try one of these but I'm don't feel up to the task. I read what Chris wrote, and it does sound complicated....Oh dear... I'm going to read up on it here on the forms section....Thanks, my dear!!! HUGS!!! I want to save some of these. DON'T take down the blog, OK? I want to print it out, but I'm not at the university right now...XOXOXOX :) :) :) :)

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  1. Date: 8/19/2013 7:01:00 PM
    Sijo is one of my favourite forms to explore(as in, to continue learning it, because there is so much more to the form than many people may consider). There is a wonderful Korean family who used to run a "Moonlight Tea" cafe close by my place. They have a toddler son who shares my name, so this sort of broke the ice. I noticed poems on one of the walls....they reminded me of Sijo, but some of the poems were broken into 6 lines(and with some of the poems that were written in 3 lines, the lines appeared broken into two parts each, with white-space punctuation in the middle). I inquired, and the owner was overjoyed that I was even curious. The poems were indeed Sijo, but not written in 3 'normal' lines. Anyway, to make a fairly long story short, I ended-up bringing my own amateur attempts at Sijo to the cafe, and the Korean owner showed me that instead of breaking the 3 lines into 6 lines, I could also create a white space in the middle of each if my syllable count for line 1 = 14, this was broken into(my choice): 7/7 or 6/8. If line two was 16 sylls, I'd break it into: 8/8, 7/9, etc. The white-space punctuation then created 6 distinct 'mini' lines within the overall 3 lines. After this experience, through some coincidental luck, I was able to attend an informal seminar on Sijo, at one of the local universities. The info expressed at the seminar, was almost 100% identical to wot the Korean tea-shop owner had taught me. It is too lengthy(and boring?)to explain some of the syllabic mechanics of Sijo, but in a nutshell, it is: line 1 = theme(3,4,4,3); line 2 = elaboration(4,4,4,4); line 3 = counter-theme/and completion (3,5)/(4,3). So, the first line(3,4,4,3), is actually two distinct syllabic sections of 7(3+4)and 7(4+3). Yes, the first line can be thought of overall as 14 or 15 syllables, but Sijo writers believe one shouldn't think of it as such, but to instead think of each 'main' line, as two sections; a yin and yang of balanced completion.

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    Dietrich Avatar Andrea Dietrich Date: 8/20/2013 6:49:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Richards Avatar Suzette Richards Date: 8/20/2013 3:24:00 AM Block poet from commenting on your poetry

    Interesting (as always), Chris :-). I read somewhere that Sijo has it roots in ancient Japanese poetry, so your breakdown of the structure of the poem makes perfect sense to me. Regards, Su

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