2023 Sejong Writing Competition
|Adult Division||Pre-college Division|
|First Place||Jade McMullen
10th grade, (Robin Henderson Tocci)
Academy of The Holy Names
|Second Place||Siya Sinha
12th grade, (Elizabeth Jorgensen)
Arrowhead Union High School
|Third Place||Eden Park
Las Vegas, NV
11th grade, (Nicole Kim)
Ed W. Clark High School
12th grade, (Terri Carnell)
Arrowhead Union High School
Sister Bay, WI
5th grade, (Julie Burke)
Chestnut Hill School
12th grade, (Elizabeth Jorgensen)
Arrowhead Union High School
*Honorable Mention - Friend of the Pacific Rim Award
( ) Teacher's name
I was born in the Virginia mountains, and there I’ve stayed, accompanied by a notepad and pen while working for years as a line cook. The themes, musicality, and structure of my writing were all born in the kitchen, some during the height of a rush, and others in somber, exhausted interludes sitting on a milk crate. Someday, I hope to be a full-time novelist, as I’ve always had to sandwich my pursuits between multiple jobs, and often wonder what things I might’ve created with a bit more breathing room. Perhaps we’ll see!
Creativity has always been an escape for me, and I often write poetry in conjunction with sculpting, drawing, or painting to see what amalgamations might result. I stumbled across the sijo form on social media, of all places, and decided to try my hand at it when I saw that the Sejong Cultural Society hosted a sijo competition. I wrote MY FATHER’S CHANGE while recalling the time I spent with my mom as she took care of her parents.
In his last few years, my grandfather had to let go of many of the things which once defined him, and through countless hours of fitting those complex feelings and myriad stories into just a few lines of words, writing this sijo helped me to reconnect with him.
You can find my artwork, along with regular updates on my writing on Instagram: @Shlunka
I read about the competition on the website of the Sejong Cultural Society. When I started my sijo, I did not know where it would take me. The very brevity of the form gave me direction. Youth is transient, but “to every thing there is a season,” and there is beauty in growing old.
My very special friend reminds me of this daily. She is Italian, her name is Joana, but she goes by Jennie. She is a hundred and eight years old, and she is beautiful. People often ask her, “What is your secret?” She usually shrugs her shoulders and smiles, but once she said, “Just live good.”
Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, I currently live in Maryland. Visit me online at: www.sashaapalmer.com
I learned about the Sijo competition through the Korean Literary Society of Washington, where we meet monthly to share our work in Korean and English. The condensed format of Sijo poetry has helped me cultivate a minimalist mindset, which aligns with the lifestyle I aspire to lead.
Writing lyrics, poems, and essays about my family brings me great pleasure. I also really enjoy hiking, reading and singing. My sister is also an inspiration, having devoted forty years to teaching piano to children with diverse behavioral challenges and their parents while also accommodating financial hardships by charging less than average for lessons. Hearing about the lessons she learns through teaching is truly remarkable, revealing two sides of the same coin.
Now, my primary goal is to co-author a children's story with my granddaughter and share the Sijo poems she writes.
I graduated from Columbia University, where I worked in the Graduate School of Journalism. I teach writing, English, and Korean, and enjoy singing and reading in my free time. I was aware of the Sejong Music Competition and came across the Writing Competition, where the thought-provoking, Korean poetic form that is sijo caught my interest.
My sijo conveys the sense of displacement, alienation, and cultural conflict that I felt when I immigrated to a predominantly white town in America. Ethnic features like hair and skin color are the first differences we notice and are used here as imagery to symbolize the dichotomy of my Asian heritage. It is a commentary on how white culture can sometimes dominate and erase the cultures of people of color, with the ocean as a representation of my experiences, evocative of not only physical, geographic migration but also cultural phenomena like whitewashing. Fitting this into the syllabic structure of sijo was a fun challenge since every word had to be intentioned.
I'm always looking for ways to stay connected to my roots and share my culture - I appreciate that my parents instilled these values in me growing up. I'm honored that Sejong Cultural Society has given me the opportunity to do both through sijo, which I am eager to continue exploring.
I heard about the competition through a blog I follow that provides a list of unique writing contests and opportunities. I had never written a sijo, so more than anything, I thought it would be an enjoyable chance to explore an unfamiliar form. It was. I had such a great time scouring the web, reading as many translated and English-language sijos as I could, holding on to some to revisit. It's such a beautiful form that contains so much, and there's a musicality to it that I found very beautiful, as if the poems were begging to be sung.
I'm a university professor and translator. I teach English and translation to non-native speakers. I love to travel and spend time in nature, and you can often find me hiking in parks or with my nose buried in a book. My sijo was inspired by the feeling I often get when out in nature - how the world seems to be constantly shifting, but there's always a part of us, deep within, that remains still.
My heroes tend to be women who lived quietly powerful lives, moving the world with their words, like Mary Oliver and Maya Angelou. In the future, I hope to keep teaching, enjoying the beauty of nature, reading, writing, and seeing as much of the world as I can.
I learned about the Sijo Competition through a targeted social media ad. It was the first time I had heard of sijo at all, and I was delighted to learn about it. I appreciate how the form imposes a structure without shying away from deep emotionality.
My heroes are my grandfathers, who each in their own boldly pursued their dreams. One grandfather served in the Korean foreign service and the other grandfather studied abroad at Berkeley. Their examples inspire me to move forward confidently into unknown futures and uncomfortable spaces.
I work as a psychotherapist specializing in Asian American issues, but in my free time, I enjoy writing speculative fiction inspired by Korean culture and concepts in psychology. Most recently, I completed a short story set in an alternative universe where tal masks are imbued with magical fighting powers. My goal is simply to keep writing, keep improving, and keep creating. I cherish the art of writing fiction because it helps me transform all the thoughts and emotions sloshing around inside of me into something more organized, whimsical, and joyous!
My name is Jade McMullen, and I am currently a sophomore at the Academy of The Holy Names in Albany, New York.
This competition was a writing project assigned by my teacher Mrs.Tocci, my first introduction to this genre of poetry. In appearance, the poem seemed so simple, but its structure proved more complex and challenging.
Rather than writing, one normally finds me on the lacrosse field. I love being outdoors and playing.
Writing this piece was special to me because Jade the stone is important in Korean culture, and it represents me since it is my given name and part ethnicity. I enjoyed writing this sijo and would like to hopefully write more poetry in the future. I am so honored to have received this award; it was a very pleasant surprise.
My name is Siya Sinha and I am a senior at Arrowhead High School located in Hartland, Wisconsin. I plan to attend UW-Lacrosse in the fall to major in marketing, with a minor in media studies. In my free time I enjoy doing videography, as well as being on the dance team.
My creative writing teacher Ms. Jorgensen introduced me to this style of poetry in class. I found myself reading a great deal of sijo and was incredibly fascinated by all of the twists. Soon enough, I greatly enjoyed writing different sijo poems as well.
I would like to thank Ms. Jorgensen and the Sejong Cultural Society for this incredible opportunity.
I'm Eden Park, a junior at Clark High School.
I heard about this competition when I was researching about sijos. Even as a Korean myself, I didn't know what a sijo was until this year!
When writing my sijo, I learned the importance of conveying every honest and genuine emotion through each and every word. With the limited number of syllables in a sijo, it was challenging for me to express this.
In my free time, I enjoy singing, dancing, and writing. Check out my journalism website here: voiceof.vegas .
In the future, I want to study psychology more extensively and pursue a career in the medical field.
My name is Tanner Harju, a senior at Arrowhead Union High School in Hartland, Wisconsin. My hobbies include but are not limited to, hockey, basketball, golf, and listening to music.
I was introduced to this competition through my English teacher, Mrs. Carnell, who also laid the groundwork for how I am meant to do my work and how to get my point across within my writing. This experience was very helpful and allowed me to look at life through a different lens and to create a meaningful piece of writing out of it.
In the future, I am attending and hope to progress through my ability to make writing pieces such as this one.
My name is Sydney Kesselheim, and I live in Boston. I enjoy writing, reading, playing the flute, and playing ice hockey and softball.
I have been writing and publishing my own newspaper for my class since I was in second grade. This year in school, we had a poetry section led by Ms. Burke that I loved, particularly the haikus and odes. I was excited to take part in this competition because I had never heard of sijo before as a style of poetry. So it was fun to learn about it and try it out.
I'm so glad that you liked my poem.
My name is Aidan Mickol and I am a senior at Arrowhead Union High School. I play volleyball for my school and I enjoy golfing. I love watching movies and being active. I will be attending UW-Madison in the fall and I plan on pursuing a Master of Business Administration in the future.
I heard about this competition through my creative writing teacher, Ms. Jorgensen. I learned the importance of word and syllable count in sijo and I enjoyed the challenge that ensued. I also learned that despite the limited word counts, I could still be very creative in my writing.