Arrowhead Creative Writing Students Enter Sijo Competition

Lucy Duchac and Autumn Treml

September 29th marked the opening of the “second annual Wisconsin Sijo Competition,” said the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a press release. 


According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for East Asian Students, a sijo is a “Korean three-line poetic form consisting of a theme (1st line), elaboration (2nd line), and a counter-theme and conclusion (3rd line)…and consists of 14-16 syllables per line.” 


However, sijo is more than just its structure. This writing style is typically used to explore “cosmological, metaphysical, or pastoral themes” trying to invoke creativity in its authors, says Madison. 


Wisconsinites of any age are welcome to participate and submit their poetry to the competition in order to earn cash prizes. As long as any Wisconsinite turns in their sijo by January 17th at 11:59 pm, CST, they are eligible to win the prizes for their division.                                                                               


The competition and prizes are split up into different divisions, depending on the age of the writer. Grades 8 and under are under the junior division, grades 9 through 12 are the senior division, and ages 30 and under make up the adult division. 


Junior division earns a $200 first-place prize and $100 for the two runners up. The senior division earns a $300 first-place prize and $150 for the two runners up. The adult division earns a $400 first-place prize and $200 for the two runners up. However, Madison says that the “judges may decline to award a prize.”


Last year, the first year of the competition, Arrowhead students submitted sijo as a part of their creative writing course. 


Elizabeth Jorgensen, an Arrowhead creative writing teacher, says that in 2020 “Arrowhead swept the high school division.” Not only was the winner of the senior division from Arrowhead, but so were all four runners up.


Additionally, Jorgensen herself was one of the winners in the adult division with her poem:

I called on the smallest student, the one hiding in the back.

“I have nothing,” she said. She cradled her head in her hands.

I didn’t respond; instead, waited; willed her to fill the silence.


Just as she writes in her sijo, Jorgensen wills her students to use their creative voices through their writing. One of these students is the past winner of the competition: Melanie Meyer, a senior at Arrowhead. Her sijo titled “Priorities” won first place in the Junior division of the competition.


She wakes up. One hour till school, she holds her pee. Makeup comes first.

Concealer hides dark circles, corrects color, and looks natural.

Peachy tones cover purples, blacks and blues; bruises from mom.


Meyer says sijo allowed her to “express more than the words [she] wrote” and became a “reflection of [her] thoughts” 


For this year’s students, Meyers says, “Don’t write down words to simply meet the requirements or even to win. Write them because you want to. Be proud of your work and find a topic that feels right.”