Thursday, August 01, 2013

KAFE 2013/Lesson Plan


Given the tight September 1st deadline for lesson plans (and a caffeine inspired case of insomnia tonight), I've gone ahead and generated this initial lesson plan for how to teach the genre of sijo. Please review and let me know if this meets your requirements. If it is satisfactory, let me know as well. I'll get it into a MS Word document. If not, please let me know what to fix.

This is not to say I will not be creating the "Our Twisted Hero" lesson plan I discussed in the notice I wrote, but THAT will require a bit more time, use of additional resources, etc. I imagine that might be finished between Labor Day and Columbus Day sometime. 

Please note I've placed my notice about KAFE2013 on FB and my blog A draft of this is there as well. 

KAFE 2013/Lesson Plan

Audience: High School Seniors
Class: World Literature
Unit: Pan-Asian Poetry


I. Introduction

Note on Korean language, hangul, and syllabary language: Ancient Korean language was once written using Chinese characters, which required years of training to learn, which often left women and peasants out. King Sejong the Great (May 15, 1397 – April 8, 1450, r. 1418–1450) wanted to expand literacy skills, so he developed the Hangul writing system, which reflected the syllabary system of Korean consonants and vowels. Syllables and stress are clearer in Korean than English, so it is easier to count syllables and write syllable-based on poems. Sijo is one of these. 

In a male-dominated society, sijo provided women with a voice.  In fact, many great sijo are by women - but many are also anonymous. 

A. What is sijo?
A traditional poetic form from Korean.  It consists of 45 syllables divided into three 15 syllable lines, with some flexibility. Syllables are counted both in the phrases in the lines, but also in each line and poem itself when the poems are written in Korean.

B. Historical background
With roots as a song form, the sijo later evolved into set literary genre, still written today in Korean and other languages. It deals with a variety of themes. 


1. Korean 
"The sijo (Korean 시조, pronounced SHEE-jo) is a traditional three-line Korean poetic form typically exploring cosmological, metaphysical, or pastoral themes. Organized both technically and thematically by line and syllable count, sijo are expected to be phrasal and lyrical, as they are first and foremost meant to be songs.

Sijo are written in three lines, each averaging 14-16 syllables for a total of 44-46 syllables. Each line is written in four groups of syllables that should be clearly differentiated from the other groups, yet still flow together as a single line. When written in English, sijo may be written in six lines, with each line containing two syllable groupings instead of four. Additionally, as shown in the example below, liberties may be taken (within reason) with the number of syllables per group as long as the total syllable count for the line remains the same.

The first line is usually written in a 3-4-4-4 grouping pattern and states the theme of the poem, where a situation generally introduced.

The second line is usually written in a 3-4-4-4 pattern (similar to the first) and is an elaboration of the first line's theme or situation (development).

The third line is divided into two sections. The first section, the counter-theme, is grouped as 3-5, while the second part, considered the conclusion of the poem, is written as 4-3. The counter-theme is called the 'twist,' which is usually a surprise in meaning, sound, or other device.

Example: excerpt from "Song of my five friends"

You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine. (2-6-4-4)
The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade. (2-4-4-6)
Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask? (2-5, 5-3)


2. English adaptations.
When writing sijo in English, the usual convention is to write 3 sets of doublets. Each line averages 7-8 syllables each. 

D. Traditional thematic concerns. 
Sijo deals with a variety of concerns - nature, rural life, relationships, friendship and humor. Modern sijo is limited only by the poet's imagination.

II. Musical Versions 

Here is an example of a sung sijo:

More available from iTunes:

III. Traditional Korean Sijo
(Includes both Korean and translated verse)

A shadow strikes the water below:
     a monk passes by on the bridge,
"Stay awhile, reverend sir,
     let me ask you where you go."
He just points his staff at the white clouds
     and keeps on his way without turning.
물 아래 그림자 지니 다리위에 중이 간다 
저 중아 게 있거라 너 가는 데 물어보자 
막대로 흰 구름 가리키며 돌아 아니 보고 가노메라
Chung Chul (1536-1593)

If everyone were a government official,
     would there be any farmers?
If doctors cured all disease, 
     would graveyards be as they are?
Boy, fill the glass to the brim;
     I'll live my life as I please.
벼슬을 저마다 하면 농부 할 이 뉘 이시며, 
의원이 병(病) 고치면 북망산(北邙山)이 저러하랴. 
아희야, 잔 가득 부어라, 내 뜻대로 하리라.
Kim Chang-Up (1658-1721)

The spring breeze melted snow on the hills, then quickly disappeared.
I wish I could borrow it briefly to blow over my hair
and melt away the aging frost forming now about my ears.
춘산(春山)에 눈 녹인 바람 건듯 불고 간듸업네 
저근듯 비러다가 뿌리과저 머리우희 
귀밋헤 해묵은 서리를 불녀볼까 하노라
U-Taek (1262-1342)

Soaring high though a mountain may be, 
     it is a mere mound beneath Heaven 
Climb and climb, 
     and no summit cannot be reached 
Yet people stay at its base 
     saying the mountain is too high.
태산이 높다하되 하늘아래 뫼이로다 
오르고 또 오르면 못오를리 없건만은 
사람이 제 아니 오르고 뫼만 높다 하더라
Yang Sa Eun (1517-1584)

Jade Green Stream, Don't boast so proud
     of your easy passing through these blue hills
Once you have reached the broad sea,
     to return again will be hard,
While the Bright Moon fills these empty hills,
     why not pause? Then go on, if you will.
청산리 벽계수야 수이감을 자랑마라
일도 창해하면 다시오기 어려오니
명월이 만강산하니 쉬여간들 엇더리
Hwang Chin-I (1506-1544)

I will break the back of this long, midwinter night, 
Folding it double, fold beneath my spring quilt, 
That I may draw out the night, should my love return.
동지달 기나긴 밤을 한 허리를 버혀 내여 
춘풍 이불 아래 서리허리 넣었다가 
어른 님 오신 날 밤이여드란 구비구비 펴리라
Hwang Chin-I (1506-1544)

Green grass covers the valley.
     Do you sleep? Are you at rest?
O where is that lovely face?
     Can mere bones lie buried here?
I have wine, but no chance to share it.
     Alone, I pour it sadly.
Im Che (1549-1587)
-written at Hwang Chin-I's grave

My horse neighs to leave here now, but you plead with me to stay; 
the sun is dipping behind the hill, and I have far to go. 
Dear One, instead of stopping me, why not hold back the setting sun?

Could the thousand branches of a green willow capture the fleeting springtime wind?
What could butterflies do to prevent the flowers they love from withering?
No matter how great one's love, how could it make a leaving flame stay?
Yi Wonik (1547-1634)

If my tears were made of pearls,
     I would catch them all and save them.
When you came back ten years later,
     a jeweled castle should enthrone you.
But these tears leave no trace at all. 
     So I am left desolate

If on the pathways of dreams
     a footprint could leave a mark,
The road by your window
     though rough with rocks,
     would soon wear smooth.
But in dreams paths take no footprints.
     I mourn the more for that.
꿈에 다니는 길이 자최 곧 나량이면
님이 집 창 밖에 석로이라도 닳으련마는
꿈길이 자최 없으니 그를 슬허하노라
Yi Myunghan (1595-1645)

Fisherman's Calendar
8. I drank and lay back;
     the boat carried me down through the shallows.
          Secure the boat, secure the boat!
Pink petals floated near;
     Towŏn itself must have been near.
          Chigukch'ong, chigukch'ong, ŏsawa!
Red dust of the world -
     how far away it seemed.
10. I look for my snail-shell hut,
     it is hidden in white clouds.
          Tie the boat fast, tie the boat fast!
Exchange my rod for a bullrush fan
     as we start to climb the rock-path.
          Chigukch'ong, chigukch'ong, ŏsawa!
Did you think I lived idly?
     This is a fisherman's life.
4. A silent snow fell last night, 
     so I woke to a bright new world.
          Work the oars, work the oars!
A sea of glass surrounds me; 
     further on the jade mountains rise.
          Chigukch'ong, chigukch'ong, ŏsawa!
Fairyland perhaps? Nirvana? 
     Surely not a world of men.
Yun Sundo (1587-1671)
-'chigukch'ong' is a form of onomatopoeia
Contemporary Sijo (20th - 21st century)


IV. Modern Korean Sijo
Contemporary Korean Sijo (20th century onwards)
includes both Korean and translated verse

I Will Write a Poem Too
Up above the shimmering sea
     Two or three seagulls are hovering. 
Rolling, wheeling, they write a poem.
     I do not know the alphabet they use.
On the broad expanse of sky
     I will write a poem too.
아득한 바다 위에 갈매기 두엇 날아 돈다.
너훌너훌 시를 쓴다. 모르는 나라 글자다.
널따란 하늘 복판에 나도 같이 시를 쓴다.
Yi Unsang (1903-1982)

Early Spring
While I wash the window,
     blowing my breath on it,
A bird flies
     and wipes the sky clean.
Tomorrow, the magnolia will be out
     and clean the colors from the clouds.
내가 입김을 불어 유리창을 닦아내면
새 한 마리 날아가며 하늘을 닦아낸다
내일은 목련꽃 찾아와 구름 빛도 닦으리
Jung Wanyung (b. 1919)

Paulownia Blooms
Misty moonlight spills over the top of the wall
One or two paulownia blooms silently drop
My feet hesitate to go; I turn and look back
담머리 넘어드는 달빛은 은은하고
한두 개 소리 없이 내려지는 오동꽃을
가려다 발을 멈추고 다시 돌아보노라
Yi Byung-Gi (1891-1968)

On Sijo Writing
The first line is a full skirt,
     the second is the bodice;
On reaching the third and last
     the neat collar has been added.
Lightly tie the ribbon bow,
     and the charm of the dress will appear.
The basic pattern of fours
     is like the counting of the days:
Twenty-eight will make a month,
     thirty-one, too, will make a month.
Set the stern, and when leaves and flowers bloom
     fragrance will come of itself.
The bright moon lighting up the sky,
     clear and white above the ground,
Is it just the shining soul
     of the sijo of ancient masters?
The mere sound of a lute in moonlight
     is that not a sijo too?
Yi Unsang (1903-1982)


V. Modern English Versions

See the house fall at our feet, faithful timbers come crashing down; 

Those with our life in their hands join the termites, gnaw at beams. 

Till the dawn, hold me while we sleep -- in the cold, that is enough.

(TOP #14 May 1995; Canadian Writer's Journal, Fall 1995)

just us two in the photograph
his arm around my thin shoulder

That strong limb I then leaned against would break so many falls

We stood like this but only once but his strength holds me still

[Elizabeth St Jacques, Around the Tree of Light(1995)


VI. Compose your own!!! 

Here are a couple your teacher wrote: 


l have  played too well
The game of insomnia

Awake all through the night 
Half asleep all the day

Eight hours of solid sleep
Worth a block of solid gold 

Soju and Sympathy 

Waiting to see an old friend 
A gift of soju in my hand.

He's stuck in Los Angeles traffic,
I'm fully patient though 

Twenty years have passed us by 
What's another twenty minutes now?

VII. Assessment/Essential Questions
1. How many syllables and lines does a traditional sijo have in Korean? English?

2. What writing system is sijo written in? How does the Korean language facilitate this type of poetry?

3. What are the musical roots of sijo?

4. True or False: Women never wrote sijo.

5. True or False: We know who wrote all sijo.

6. What is often unique about the last third of a sijo?

7. Compare and contrast sijo with haiku. Why might some modern poets prefer sijo?

8. Many types of poems are constrained by syllable count, from sonnets to limericks to haiku. Why might this help the poet rather than limit him?

Additional Resources:

Sijo primer by Larry Gross:

Article by Harvard Professor David McCann on sijo:

Lectures by David McCann

The form of sijo:

The history of sijo:

An analysis of a sijo:

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