River at Dawn – Sijo – August 22, 2015

river

walking down the river at dawn
the wind whispers in the trees

the ducks have gone fishing early
to avoid the Sunday crowd

and this old lady meditates
slapping tiger mosquitoes

© G.s.k. ‘15

travelling into memories
of times they’ll never really know

in a strange parenthesis
each late summer up in the Alps

to Sluderno like on pilgrimage
what do they seek in the mountains

© G.s.k. ‘15

Written on August 19, 2015 for:

Carpe Diem Tokubetsudesu #57 Sijo, the ancient poem from Korea

“Sijo share a common history with haiku and other Japanese forms. Sijo is a modern term for a Korean style of lyrical poetry, originally called tanga (literally, “short song”). The sijo strongly resembles Japanese haiku in having a strong foundation in nature in a short profound structure. Bucolic, metaphysical and astronomical themes are often explored. The lines average 14-16 syllables, for a total of 44-46. There is a pause in the middle of each line, so in English they are sometimes printed in six lines instead of three. Most poets follow these guidelines very closely although there are longer examples. Either narrative or thematic, this lyric verse introduces a situation or problem in line 1, development (called a turn) in line 2, and a strong conclusion beginning with a surprise (a twist) in line 3, which resolves tensions or questions raised by the other lines and provides a memorable ending.”

Korean poetry can be traced at least as far back as King Yuri’s Song of Yellow Birds (17 BC), but its roots are in still earlier Chinese quatrains. Sijo, Korea’s favorite poetic genre, is often traced to Confucian monks of the eleventh century, but its roots, too, are in those earlier forms. Its greatest flowering occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Sijo is, first and foremost, a song. This lyric pattern gained popularity in royal courts as a vehicle for religious or philosophic expression, but a parallel tradition arose among the ‘common’ folk. Sijo were sung or chanted with musical accompaniment, and still are. In fact, the word originally referred only to the music, but it has come to be identified with the lyric as well.

The poet should not lose sight of three basic characteristics that make the sijo unique: its structure, its musical/rhythmic elements, and the twist which begins the final line. For best results, poets follow these and other guidelines very closely. (sources: Wonder Haiku Worlds)

“The wind is pure and clear,
the moon is pure and bright.

The bamboo grove within the pines
is pure of worldly cares:

But a lute and piles of scrolls
can make it purer still”

© Kwon Homun (1532-1587)

“the white snow has left the valleys
where the clouds are lowering

Is it true that somewhere
the plum trees have happily blossomed?

I stand here alone in the dusk
and do not know where to go”

© Yi Saek (1328-1396)

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 T’ak (1262-1342)

wonder days wander, eagles
on summer sky with thunder clouds

breeze from distant worlds arrives,
cool with swans on  billowing back

vast clouds  array ancient
fairy tales, epics of ether light. 

© Narayanan Raghunathan (co-founder of Wonder Haiku Worlds)