Poetry Friday: Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park

Picture Book Around the World: Reading Through Korea I’m working hard on my Picture Book Around the World sequel to Picture Book Preschool, my preschool read aloud curriculum for homeschooling your preschooler or kindergartner. This week at Semicolon, we’re going to continue to visit Korea through the medium of a treasure trove of picture books featuring that country and its children.


What’s in your pockets right now? I hope they’re not empty:
Empty pockets, unread books, lunches left on the bus–all a waste.
In mine: One horse chestnut. One gum wrapper. One dime. One hamster.

Linda Sue Park’s poem, POCKETS, is an example of a Korean sijo (see-szo or she-szo, with the j pronounced as the French pronounce Jacques), a three or six line poem with a fixed number of stressed syllables and an unexpected twist or joke at the end. Tap Dancing on the Roof is a book of sijo. These deceptively simple poems are a delight, but after reading over the end page, “Some Tips for Writing your own Sijo”, I am even more impressed with the difficulty inherent in writing a “simple” poem. Making it look easy isn’t easy.

Sijo were originally meant to be sung, and the songs “often praised the beauty of the seasons.” Yes, they’re similar to haiku, but whereas haiku are usually nature poems, sijo are about all kinds of subjects. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries many sijo were written by women who were court singers. These sijo were often about love and romance. The poems in Tap Dancing on the Roof are about kid stuff nature, games, daily tasks, and family relationships.

I thought I might try writing my own sijo for this review, but after I read the poems in Tap Dancing on the Roof and thought about it some more, I decided that I’m not that talented as a poet. So here’s a poem I liked from the Sejong Cultural Society website:

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)

Writen by Sherry

I'm a Christian, the homeschooling mom of eight (yes, all mine) children, married to a NASA engineer, and a confirmed bookaholic. I like old books, conservative politics, and new and interesting ideas. My hair is grey, my favorite clothes are red, and I love purple. Come on in and enjoy the blog. Be sure to tell me what you think before you leave.

3 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park

  1. I love learning about poetry forms; although, writing them is another story. Thanks for joining the Poetry Friday roundup today with such an informative post. I’ll add this book to my ongoing and ever growing list.

  2. What a wistful poem… Thanks for sharing this book, form, and poem with us, Sherry. I’ll join Margaret in adding Tap Dancing on the Roof to my list.

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