WiSiJo – Wisconsin’s Annual Sijo Poetry Contest

The 2023-24 WiSiJo Contest is now open! The new contest will be open through January 15, 2024.

WiSiJo is an annual sijo poetry writing competition held across Wisconsin since 2020.

What is Sijo? Sijo is a traditional Korean three-line poetic form consisting of a theme (1st line), elaboration (2nd line), and a counter-theme and conclusion (3rd line). Sijo traditionally explores cosmological, metaphysical, or pastoral themes and consists of 14-16 syllables per line:

So they say there was a gale and frosty snow fell last night?
And the spreading pines were all broken and overthrown?
In that case how about the flowers, what chance have they to bloom?
–Yu Eung-bu (d. 1456)

In the above poem, the first two lines are dominated by heavy, dark, cold imagery—“gale”, “frosty”, “night”, “broken.” The counter-theme in the first half of the third line introduces flowers—light and delicate—into the poem. The two discordant images are then resolved or connected in the conclusion which focuses on the fate of the flowers in such an environment.

While sijo is not as well-known as haiku, its thematic nature and longer line length make it easily adaptable to English.

CEAS organized the first WiSiJo competition with Sejong Cultural Society in 2020 at the suggestion of Wisconsin high school teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen.

Jorgensen, who has taught sijo for many years, recently co-edited a book on sijo, Sijo: Korea’s Poetry Form, with Sejong Cultural Society executive director Lucy Park.

What started as an experimental pilot program has drawn entries from all parts of Wisconsin. The competition is open to Wisconsinites of all ages, offers monetary prizes of up to $400 to winning entries, and includes inducements for schools and libraries to promote participation.

While sijo are traditionally written on cosmological, metaphysical, or pastoral themes, previous entrants have written sijo on Wordle, Alzhemiers, and even Aaron Rodger’s 2021 toe-injury:

The Toe

Six-feet, two-inches, two-hundred twenty-five pounds of toughness.
Sacked five-hundred times, all but two, he gets back up again.
But step near Aaron’s pinky toe, Lambeau holds its collective breath.

Aaron Rodgers shows his toe to the camera.
Aaron Rodgers spoke about his injury in an interview/press conference as reported by Packers.com’s YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/qCB3jbMhW2I

For more information and advice on how to write your first sijo, please visit the Sejong Cultural Society’s Sijo Writing Guide. You may find information on how to enter this year’s competition here.

The Wisconsin Sijo Competition is funded in part by a Title VI grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

What will your sijo be about?