Students Sweep UW Madison’s Poetry Contest


Lexi Morgan, Reporter

Arrowhead Creative Writing students wrote poems for a poetry contest run through the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Center for East Asian Studies. It was the University’s first time hosting a sijo contest.

Sijo is a form of poetry originating from Korea that consists of three lines. The first line is a theme, the second line an elaboration, and the third a counter-theme and conclusion. Each line contains 14-16 syllables, for a total of 44-46 syllables.

Melanie Meyer won the grand prize; Sarah Bierman, Sidney Heberlein, Giana Konen, and Jordan Korpela were runners-up.

The contest was open to Wisconsinites of all ages, offering prizes up to $400 for the adult division (ages 19+), $300 for the senior division (ages 14-18), and $200 for the junior division (ages 13 and under). 

Arrowhead students swept the senior division of the competition. 

Meyer, a junior, won with a poem called “Priorities.” The poem tells the story of a girl going through domestic abuse from a parent. 

Meyer says, “I loved writing sijo poems and I couldn’t have gotten very far without the help and advice from her [teacher].”

Bierman, a senior, was one of four runners-up with a poem called “Waiting For The Call.” The poem highlights the restlessness of waiting to hear news about a family member’s death.

Bierman says, “I decided to write about my experience with a loss we had in the family when I was little. This day has stuck with me for a very long time and I wanted to incorporate the small details I remembered into my poem.”

Heberlein, a junior, wrote a poem called “Great Grandpa.” Her sijo is about a grandchild visiting her great grandfather who suffers from memory loss. 

Heberlein says, “Writing has never been one of my strong suits; however, this year I have started to become more and more interested in it.” 

Konen, a senior submitted “Ava.” The work describes the protective relationship between two cousins, one with dwarfism. 

Konen says, “This writing form was completely new to me and it brought me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to display my creativity. Throughout this competition, I was able to learn how to portray a story in only a few lines while still including emotions and conflict.”

Korpela, a junior, wrote “Goodbye Old.” Her piece describes looking back on oneself and not recognizing the changed being. 

Korpela says, “I thought that this type of poetry was really interesting because it’s so different from all the other types. It was hard to step outside the box and come up with a good poem that would fit all the standards for a sijo poem but, it was really fun to be a different kind of creative. I do like writing poems and just writing in general, it’s a really good way to express myself and I’m definitely not going to stop writing.”

All poems and author biographies from all divisions can be found here.