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Larry Gross

Editor of Sijo West
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Tallahassee, FL
United States

My Other Pages

theWORDshop Homepage
It all starts here.

The Sijo
Korea's favorite lyric poetry form defined and illustrated.

Selected Sijo
from SIJO WEST and elsewhere.

The Fisherman's Calendar
The most famous work from the finest master of sijo, Yon Sun-do.

Sijo Discussion and Links
What makes sijo tick? Links to other sijo sites.

Sayings of the Wise Shang-ti
Haiku-like proverbs from a would-be guru.

What Is a Renga?
Explore the fascinating world of renga, with examples.

Tan Renga?
Linking verses that look like tanka and work like renga.

Florida State Poets Association, Inc.
The gathering place for Florida's poets.

The Big Bend Poets
Home to poets of the Tallahassee FL area

Contests sponsored by FSPA.


The earliest existing Korean poem was written in 17 BCE by King Yuri of Kokuryo, but a strong poetic tradition existed at least 2000 years earlier. From the 6th century CE onward many of the poems were sijo-like in construction, but the sijo came into its own in the 13th century, near the end of the Koryo Dynasty. The greatest of the Old Masters wrote in the 16th and early part of the 17th century, roughly equivalent to the times of Shakespeare and the Renaissance in England.

Here, from time to time, we will exhibit samples from these early writers, along with an historical note or two.


Better known by his pen name T'oegye, Yi Hwang was likely the greatest scholar and most influential philosopher of the Yi Dynasty. After serving honorably in several government positions at court, he retired to study and teach in his beloved valley in Tosan, where his house still stands. His famous Twelve Songs of Tosan is a cycle of verses celebrating the beauties of nature and examining the esssence of the human condition. The following verse is from that cycle.

The old teacher never saw me; he lived long before my time.
Though I may never meet him, I can see the road he traveled.
With his wise path before me, what reason for me to stray?

This sijo and the others on this page were adapted into English by Larry Gross unless noted otherwise.


Korea's most famous writer of sijo is also considered its greatest poet:

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?

Yon Sun-do (1587-1671)

This comes from the most famous female poet, a courtesan:

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)


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.


See, mirror, here's my face again, soft as a rose's petal.
Should I surprise him tonight, show up like a painted lady?
How can he make it through the day, not seeing me as you do?.


In dreams I yearn to come to you in a cricket's spirit.
In this endless autumn night I'll spring into your darkened room,
wake you from your singular sleep, and murmur of my longing.

Pak Hyokwan (1781-1880)

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