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  • Sijo:Building the Base, Spreading the Word and the Practice
  • David R. McCann (bio)

I have become quite deeply interested in the sijo form. I started writing sijo in English some years ago, following the practice of my course on Writing Asian Poetry. A creative writing class, we follow models of Classical Chinese poetry, Japanese haiku, and then the Korean sijo. The sijo just started happening for me in English, and a collection of them, Urban Temple, was published by Bo-Leaf Books in 2010, followed by a dual-language, Korean and English edition from Changbi Publishers in 2012.

The three essays that follow show ways in which the sijo form and practice have been brought outside of Korea and Korean-language practice into the English-language environment of schools and colleges in the United States. Lucy Park's essay on the Sejong Cultural Society's annual sijo contest describes the Society's ten-year effort to promote awareness and interest in Korea and its culture through the annual sijo writing contest. The most recent news from Chicago, though, is the amazing story of the hip-hop group Elephant Rebellion and how they have brought the sijo into their repertoire. Ivanna Yi presents a firsthand account of the sheer joy students experience at their encounter with sijo as poetry to be sung as they not only listen to actual performance of the sijo but also try it themselves, in their own voices. Elizabeth Jorgensen's essay provides a dynamic account of how the Sejong Cultural [End Page 93] Society's sijo programs and the annual contest reached her creative writing class at the Arrowhead Union High School in Wisconsin. It is a remarkably vivid account of how, in fact, the sijo lives on in the realms of English-language poetry. [End Page 94]

David R. McCann

David R. McCann taught Korean literature at Harvard University until his retirement in 2014. He particularly enjoyed teaching Writing Asian Poetry, his creative writing class that explored the Classical Chinese, Japanese haiku, and Korean sijo forms for English-language poetry. His more recent books include Urban Temple, a collection of his English-language sijo poems from Bo-Leaf Press in 2010, published in a dual-language Korean and English edition by Changbi Publishers in Seoul in 2012; Slipping Away, a Korean p'ansori-style narrative poem from Finishing Line Press, a chapbook published in 2013; and Same Bird, new and selected poems from Moon Pie Press in 2016. One of his haiku poems published in Acorn haiku journal received the Haiku Foundation Touchstone Award in 2014 and is included in Haiku 2015, from Modern Haiku Press. He has been translating a collection of modern Korean Buddhist poems in a project sponsored by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.