Five Arrowhead Students Recognized in National Sijo Poetry Competition

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Five Arrowhead Students Recognized in National Sijo Poetry Competition

Creative Writing students working in class

Creative Writing students working in class

Creative Writing students working in class

Creative Writing students working in class

Ellie Artone, Reporter

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The Sejong Cultural Society, in collaboration with the Korea Institute at Harvard University, released their annual sijo competition results on May 9, 2018. Sijo is a Korean form of poetry. Of the 11 national winners recognized, five were Arrowhead Union High School students.

Arrowhead was the only high school to have multiple winners.

AHS students recognized are senior Mari Caldero, senior Claire Lawrence, senior Cole Siepmann, junior Toni Smith, and senior Bryce Toussaint. The winning poems and student bios can be found here.

According to the Sejong Cultural Society, the sijo (pronounced shee-jo) is a traditional poetic form organized by line and syllable count. Poems are expected to be read like lyrics or as a phrase, because they are meant to be songs. Traditionally, sijos have a total of 44-46 syllables and include a twist.

In English teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen’s Creative Writing class, students write sijo poems and submit them to the Sejong Cultural Society’s writing competition. Jorgensen says she has had her class do this every year for the past ten years.

“This is the first time I’ve had this many winners,” Jorgensen said. “In this particular assignment, I’m always so pleased with how students learn about a Korean form of poetry and become more globally and culturally aware.”

Last year, three of the national winners were from Jorgensen’s class.

Siepmann, who received an honorable mention in the competition, says, “Writing sijo poetry was my favorite piece of creative writing we did all year. I have never enjoyed writing and never thought I was good at it. Sijo poetry made writing fun because I was able to use creativity and less length than an essay. In my sijo poem, I just thought about everyday life and how I could write a creative poem with a twist. In Danger I used intense language and then connected that to playing in the yard with my brother.”

Siepmann submitted the following poem:

“I am scared. I run away.

Sirens screench, gunfire soars.

Bullets fly, I search for cover.

Whimpering, I can’t breathe.

My brother laughs, shooting a toy gun.

‘Got ya!’ he says. ‘Let’s play again!’”


Smith said, “I heard about the sijo competition in creative writing class from my teachers, Ms. Jorgensen and Mrs. Hamilton. While writing my sijo poem, I learned how to use rhythm within writing and poetry.”

The sijo competition was judged by Gyung-ryul Jang, a professor of English from the University of Texas at Austin, David McCann, a former Korean literature professor at Harvard University, and Mark Peterson, the head of the Korean section of the David M. Kennedy Center for International studies.

“This is a huge honor. I am so proud of my creative writing students. They continue to impress me with their ability to reflect on their personal experiences, grow in their ability to express emotion and tell relevant and engaging stories,” says Jorgensen.

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