National Poetry Month: Haiku and Sijo Forms

If you’re looking for a fun poetry challenge, consider writing in some of the brief Asian forms that use syllabic meter (or, lines which are measured in the number of syllables they have, rather than accents or beats or emphases).

Of course many of us know the haiku, which we in the U.S. are taught when we are young as being three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively, and usually being about nature.

That’s not a bad way to think about haiku at all, but you can expand your idea of it to be any very brief lyric which incorporates both image and comment. And consider that “comment” can be any implied opinion. One of the most amusing haiku I’ve read is this one by Issa (translated by Robert Hass):

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house

Another form you might enjoy, related to haiku and tanka and offering a bit more of a challenge, is the Korean form sijo. According to the Poetry Foundation, a sijo is “comprised of three lines of 14-16 syllables each, for a total of 44-46 syllables. Each line contains a pause near the middle, similar to a caesura, though the break need not be metrical. The first half of the line contains six to nine syllables; the second half should contain no fewer than five. Originally intended as songs, sijo can treat romantic, metaphysical, or spiritual themes. Whatever the subject, the first line introduces an idea or story, the second supplies a turn, and the third provides closure. Modern sijo are sometimes printed in six lines.” You can find multiple examples of sijo online.

I invite you to try these forms out and send them to me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com!


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