2021 Wisconsin Sijo Competition Winners


Grand Prize

Thomas Singleton
Appleton, WI

Seeker, consider the frog. The little, green yogi sits for hours,
motionless, unblinking, present, tongue ready to catch a fly.
Be like him. Acquire patience. Then feel free to spit out the fly.


Winnie Chan
Madison, WI

Your mind is a labyrinth which I fail to make my way through.
Down hallways and stairwells deep, I come up short, meet your dead ends.
Do you know how much I long for whispers and the wilderness?

Laura Grossenbacher
Verona, WI

Death in a Terrible Year
My mama’s hands curl’d up in the days before she died,
Curl’d into fists to pummel the injustice of this savage world;
She went silent, but her hands show’d us she kept on fighting.

Elizabeth Jorgensen
Waukesha, WI

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.

Seniorteacher in parentheses

Grand Prize

Melanie Meyer
Hartland, WI
(Elizabeth Jorgensen)

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.


Sarah Bierman
Sussex, WI
(Elizabeth Jorgensen)

Waiting For The Call
As the sun began to set, the sky turned many shades of orange.
We visit with my grandma as she silently waits for the phone.
We say our prayers and goodbyes. The phone rings. He is gone.

Sidney Heberlein
Hartland, WI
(Elizabeth Jorgensen)

Great Grandpa
I hurry to the couch; he awaits his precious grandchild.
I plop by his side. Beaming, I ask, “How are you, great grandpa?”
He glares back, trying to smile, and responds, “Who are you, dear?”

Gianna Konen
Hartland, WI
(Elizabeth Jorgensen)

Five years old, her beaming smile brightens the world. My cousin.
Together we laugh, dance, sing, and play as if nothing matters.
Dwarfism - scary in this judgmental world, I will protect her.

Jordan Korpela
Hartland, WI
(Terri Carnell)

Goodbye Old
I lost someone close to me,
someone I knew really well.
I saw old photos; she was happy.
What happened to her?
I look in the mirror;
What happened to the old me?

Juniorteacher in parentheses

Grand Prize

Harper Abel
Pittsville, WI
(Kate Van Haren)

I may have many big dreams, as many as you could think of.
I want to be a kid's oncologist to help with cancer,
But I still have a long time think because I am only ten.


Isabella Peterson
Burlington, WI
(Emily Laidley)

More Than A Bird
Perched in the tree above. Silky, shiny feathers. A diamond of the animal world.
Noisy yet calm. A speck in the sky yet a treasure to the eye.
Free above not meant for a cage. Wings stretched out, then it flies away.

Julia Zimdars
Oconomowoc, WI
(Beth Wartzenluft)

My Mom's Perfume
The smell a memory so sweet, my mom's perfume, the perfect day
Clear skies, a lullaby, like a big hug in the arms of my mom
With age, the scent fades away, one whiff of the smell brings me back...


Thomas Singleton :: Adult grand prize winner

I became aware of the sijo competition from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets of which I am a member. I have written poetry for years, and have self-published five chapbooks of poetry. Because of experience with the economy of language that poetry often requires, I took readily to writing sijo, as well as the Japanese haiku. I found the information that your website offers in the writing of sijo to be very helpful, especially regarding the importance of the surprising twist often contained in the last line. I derive much satisfaction from writing, and lately I've started-up a blog of over 250 of my poems and essays, free to the public. The blog address is: shroudedshore.blogspot.com. I gain inspiration for my writing mostly from nature - hiking and canoeing in the wilderness.

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Winnie Chan :: Adult runner-up

I learned about this competition through UW-Madison's Center for East Asian Studies newsletter! At the time, I was reading Mark Forsyth's book on rhetoric, The Elements of Eloquence, and thought it would be fun to try out some of the techniques he described in a sijo. I'm glad I know another East Asian verse form besides good old haiku now!

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Elizabeth Jorgensen :: Adult runner-up

A decade ago, through the Sejong Cultural Society, I discovered sijo’s possibilities for emotional expression, lyricism and musicality. I have been writing and teaching the form since. For this competition, I wrote many sijo and couldn’t decide which one to submit; so, I shared my sijo with friends and family. Although they didn’t agree, I enjoyed talking about my work and encouraged others to also write and submit. In addition to sijo, I write nonfiction. My memoir, co-written with Nancy Jorgensen, Go, Gwen, Go: A Family’s Journey to Olympic Gold, is available from Meyer & Meyer Sport. When not writing, I’m most likely cuddling with my dogs, watching Bravo, reading celebrity memoirs or working out with my trainer, Ryan Bloor at Right Body Fitness. Learn more on my website: lizjorgensen.weebly.com

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Melanie Meyer :: Senior grand prize winner

My name is Melanie Meyer and I am a student at Arrowhead Union High School. I learned about sijo from my creative writing teacher, Ms. Jorgensen. I loved writing sijo poems and I couldn't have gotten very far without the help and advice from her. I love painting and one day, I hope to be a CPS worker.

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Sarah Bierman :: Senior runner-up

My name is Sarah Bierman and I am a senior at Arrowhead High school. I enjoy performing in the musicals put on by my school and reading non fiction books. I am hoping to attend a UW school in the upcoming year and have a major in business management. 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.

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Sidney Heberlein :: Senior runner-up

My name is Sidney Heberlein and I am a junior at Arrowhead High School in Hartland, WI. In my free time, I enjoy playing Volleyball and spending time with my friends. I hope to pursue a career in the Sciences after attending college. Writing has never been one of my strong suits; however, this year I have started to become more and more interested in it. I learned about sijo and about this competition through my creative writing class. I am grateful that my teacher, Ms. Jorgensen, introduced me to this incredible poetry form!

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Gianna Konen :: Senior runner-up

My name is Gianna Konen and I am currently a senior at Arrowhead High School. I participate in cross country and track and have played basketball most of my life. I love spending time with friends and family especially in the outdoors. I intend to major in nursing at Marquette University in the fall. I was introduced to this competition by my creative writing teacher Ms. Jorgensen. 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.

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Jordan Korpela :: Senior runner-up

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.

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Harper Abel :: Junior grand prize winner

My name is Harper Abel and I’m in the 4th grade at Pittsville Elementary School. My teachers Ms. Van Haren and Mr. Hahn taught our class about sijo poems. I learned that sijo poems should have between 14-16 syllables, so I wanted to choose my words carefully, but also make them powerful. I have a lot of goals for myself and one of them is to be a children’s oncologist. I feel bad that kids have cancer and cannot help it, so I want to help them feel better! I enjoy playing sports, taking dance lessons, playing the piano, and drawing!

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Isabella Peterson :: Junior runner-up

Hi my name is Isabella. I love to write so when my mom showed me the Sijo competition on the Burlington Public Library Facebook page, I jumped at the chance. I didn't know what Sijo poems were so I did a little research. When I was writing my poem I thought of how majestic a bird was. When I am not writing I like to play with my pets and play sports like basketball. I hope future students aren't afraid to put themselves out there and try their best.

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Julia Zimdars :: Junior runner-up

I learned about this competition from my wonderful teacher, Beth Wartzenluft, a Teaching and Learning Coordinator and also my Honors English teacher at Stone Bank School. I entered this competition not thinking about winning, but wanting experience. I learned that writing Sijo is a process that is easier if you have details on what you are writing about. Some of my hobbies are softball, writing, music, and art. In the future, I look forward to summer and softball games, as well as spending time with friends and family. I really don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I do know that I enjoy writing.

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David McCann

David McCann taught Korean literature at Harvard University until his retirement in 2014. He particularly enjoyed teaching his class Writing Asian Poetry, a creative writing class exploring 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. David translated the poems included in the collection The Temple of Words: An Anthology of Modern Korean Buddhist Poetry published by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Seoul, in 2017.

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Mark Peterson

Mark Peterson (Professor Emeritus of Korean history, literature and language, Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT) received B.A.'s in Asian Studies and Anthropology from Brigham Young University in 1971. He received his M.A. in 1973 and his Ph.D. in 1987, both from Harvard University in the field of East Asian Languages and Civilization. Prior to coming to BYU in 1984 he was the director of the Fulbright program in Korea from 1978 to 1983. He has been the coordinator of the Asian Studies Program and was the director of the undergraduate programs in the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. Dr. Peterson is a member of the Association for Asian Studies, where he was formerly the chair of the Korean Studies Committee; was also the book review editor for the Journal of Asian Studies for Korean Studies books. He is also a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, the International Association for Korean Language Education, the International Korean Literature Association, and the American Association of Korean Teachers. He served as past editor-in-chief for the Korea Journal, published by UNESCO in Korea, from 2015 to 2017. Currently he is working with a research center he founded called The Frog Outside the Well Research Center.

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