This is distilled from the Aha Poetry site & the Sejong Cultural Society Site:
The Korean Sijo predates the poems
/haiku'>haiku, tanka all three of these forms grew from patterns in Chinese poetry. As in haiku the syllable count alone does not make it a Sijo. Also the syllable count is a bit random because we are going from the Korean language to English.
Sijo is traditionally composed in three lines of 14-16 syllables each, totaling between 44-46 syllables. A pause breaks each line approximately in the middle; it resembles a caesura but is not based on metrics.
My body, in its withering, may become a love
Under the eaves of my loved one's home I'll build my nest of twigs.
After dusk I'll fly aloft and glide gently to his side.
. . . Anonymous
Mind, I have a question for you - How is it you stay so young?
As the years pile up on my body, you too should grow old.
Oh, if I followed your lead, Mind, I would be run out of town.
Observe the 2 parts of line 1 above [so much to learn I also was unaware of this until now!]
Mind, I have a question for you [ahaHA, cesura or volta] – How is it you stay so young?
[Mind, I have] 3 [a question for you]5 – [How is it ] 3 [you stay so young] 4 = 15
*Do you see how each of the syllabic parts can stand-alone but still work together?
Because it was meant to be sung, and because of the nature Hangul (the Korean script), the structure of sijo often resembles biblical phrases. In English, it may resemble Hopkins' sprung rhythm. To achieve this phrasal quality, each long line, once divided, is divided again, into quarters averaging 3 - 5 syllables, as indicated by the slashes:
Without the pines / the wind is silent;
without wind / the pines are still;
Without you / my heart is voiceless,
without that voice / my heart is dead.
What potent power / of yang and yin
pairs us / before we sleep?
Though quarter lines are seldom divided so obviously, a discernible (even if slight) pause is usually evident. Sijo may be highly repetitive. Phrases may be repeated or echoed, a trait revealing the sijo's heritage to be sung or chanted. Meter is not vital, but that musical link should not be overlooked.
Each half-line contains 6-9 syllables; the last half of the final line is often shorter than the rest, but should contain no fewer than 5.
A drum beats in the far temple; I think it's in the clouds.
Is it above the meadow and hill, perhaps below the sky?
Something sends a veil of mist, I cannot heed the drum. anonymous
Oh that I might capture the essence of this deep midwinter night
And fold it softly into the waft of a spring-moon quilt
Then fondly uncoil it the night my beloved returns.
...Hwang Chin-i (1522-1565) most revered female Korean classical poet
The sijo may be narrative or thematic, introducing a situation or problem in line 1, development, or "turn" in line 2, and resolution in line 3. The first half of the final line employs a "twist": a surprise of meaning, sound, tone or other device. The sijo is often more lyrical, subjective and personal than haiku, and the final line can take a profound, witty, humorous or proverbial turn. Like haiku, sijo has a strong basis in nature, but, unlike that genre, it frequently employs metaphors, symbols, puns, allusions and similar word play.
You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine.
The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade.
Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask?
How are you doing?? Are you enjoying the form?