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The Arrowhead

The Arrowhead

AHS sweeps UW Madison sijo (poetry) competition

Only some American students know what a sijo poem is—but not the students in Arrowhead’s Creative Writing classes. Students in Arrowhead Union High school’s Creative Writing classes wrote and submitted original sijo sijo poems to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Annual Sijo Poetry Contest. The 2023-24 WiSijo contest was open through January 15, 2024. 

 

The first place winner of the competition was Arrowhead student Karly Turinske; the second place winner was AHS student Alex Brunner; and AHS also had a runner up in Georgia Tilmont.  

 

A sijo poem is a Korean form of poetry that is the art of the compressed narrative: sweeping emotions, vast pastoral imagery, and philosophical musings, all in the space of a few breaths. 

 

Turinske, in her bio, says, “When we began our unit on Sijo, I was intrigued by the style, format, and endless possibilities associated with these poems. I learned that the best poems are written from the heart and that a poem doesn’t have to be long to convey a desired message. I also learned how to incorporate my thoughts and feelings into a limited amount of words.”

 

In her bio, Brunner says, “My personal hero is my younger sister, Peyton. Through all of our ups and downs in life, we have always stuck together and she has been my rock. Whenever I feel sad or angry about something, I know that I can always go to her and she will without doubt make me laugh with real joy. I could not imagine a more supportive, generous, and caring best friend on our journey together through life!”

 

Tilmont, in her bio, says, “I found this competition from my teacher of Creative Writing, Ms. Jorgensen. She taught our class about this unique style of writing I had never heard of before and allowed us to flourish with it. I learned that there’s more than one style of writing to be able to express yourself.”

 

There is a very specific form of sijo in order for it to be considered a sijo poem. Sijo poems have 44-46 syllables within three lines of 14-16 syllables per line—or as a six-line poem with carrying syllables per line with each line featuring a pause, similar to a caesura, near the middle. 

 

WiSijo is an annual sijo poetry writing competition held across Wisconsin that started in 2020. While sijo is not as well known as haiku, its thematic nature and longer line length make it easily adaptable to English.

 

Elizabeth Jorgensen, an Arrowhead Union High school teacher, and her colleague Terri Carnell, have students submit their work to writers’ markets, including the WiSijo competition. 

 

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

 

What has 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 up to $400 to winning entries, and includes inducements for schools and libraries to promote participation, says the WiSiJo website.

 

According to the WiSiJo website, sijo are traditionally written on cosmological, metaphysical or pastoral themes, previous entrants have written sijo on Wordle, Alzhemiers, and even Aron Rodger’s 2021 toe-injure.

 

Karly Turinske

Papa
Papa smiles ear-to-ear, his age showing but not known.
His eyes twinkle—he is wearing his favorite button-down.
I step back from the paper; if only my drawing was real.

 

Alexander Brunner 

Deathbed

The clock ticks and he glances around the room, searching for someone.
In despair, he starts to weep and cries for mama and papa.
Silently, they sit around him. “Dad, we’re here,” his children say.

 

Georgia Tilmont

Ready?

Don’t want to think–or work on it–school is very tiring.
Endless nights filled with homework, tears, and hoping for something better.
I’m ready to leave, but where, do I even want to think about it?

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