LJ McDowall

Messing About With Words

Sijo for a Gentleman

From Songs from Riceless Inns.

From Songs from Riceless Inn

About this poem:

Sijo poetry is an ancient form of Korean poetry favoured by the Korean Kiseng poets of the Cheoseon Dynasty.  Kiseng were the counterparts to the Japanese Geisha, and like Geisha, they were primarily artists — dancers, medics, musicians, and poets. Their artistic gifts obviously did not stop their patrons treating them as playthings, though some, perhaps, might have come to regret it.  The artist, the poet, the writer, often involves herself in forms of emotional prostitution. She dances because she must: despite the fact the men with cattleprod eyes might be watching. The path of the artist is often a hard and bitter road where the struggle to protect autonomy and self respect from those who would strip it from her.

In this poem I play with classical imagery from both East and West. In Japan and Korea it was customary for the courtesan to send her patron a morning-after poem attached to a flower. The flower held significance for the man.  There are references here to the East Asian language of flowers — to the cactus flower, symbolising his lust, and to the narcissus flower, or daffodil, symbolising her self-respect.

Narcissus of course, is the Greek archtype which gives the pathology of narcissism its name.

The poem is the seventh (denoted by the Hanja) in my cycle of sijo poetry Songs from the Riceless Inn, currently a work in progress.

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This entry was posted on June 19, 2015 by in Uncategorized.
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