Poetry Kaleidoscope: Guide to Poetry

Pantoum

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The pantoum is a rare form of poetry *NO IT IS NOT* similar to a villanelle. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. This pattern continues for any number of stanzas, until the final stanza, which usually contains the first and third lines of the first stanza as its second and fourth lines. Often, the final stanza's fourth line is the poem's first, and the third line of the poem may *NO DUMPING* or may not appear as the second line of the final stanza. Ideally, the meaning of lines shifts when they are repeated although the words remain exactly the same: this can be done by shifting punctuation, punning, or simply recontextualizing.

The pantoum is originally Malaysian and is infrequently adapted to English.

As the pantoum is relatively rare in English, it is sometimes difficult to find examples, however, in recent years, there have been some American poets like John Ashbery, Donald Justice and David Trinidad who have done work in this form.

Additional Information regarding Pantoum history and form:

== The Pattern of The Pantoum ==

The “pantun” is a Malaysian poetic form that was introduced to the West by French novelist, essayist, and poet, Victor Hugo (1802-1885), hence the French spelling, “pantoum.” Westerners have taken creative liberties with the Malaysian form, which tends to follow a standard rhyme form of ABAB, where multiple, rather than single subjects, are introduced. While pantoums can have unlimited stanzas, you might want to begin with a 3-stanza poem until you get the hang of it:

PANTOUM GRID SAMPLE #1

Stanza 1:
Line 1
Line 2
Line 3
Line 4
Stanza 2:
Line 5 (repeat of line 2 in stanza 1)
Line 6 (new line)
Line 7 (repeat of line 4 in stanza 1)
Line 8 (new line)
Stanza 3 or Last Stanza (This is the format for the last stanza regardless of how many preceding stanzas exist):
Line 9 (line 2 of the previous stanza)
Line 10 (line 3 of the first stanza)
Line 11 (line 4 of the previous stanza)
Line 12 (line 1 of the first stanza)

Pantoum Example #1


== It's all in the canvas ==
By Terrie Relf


Naked in front of a full-length mirror,
you roll and press those folds of flesh,
think about Rubens' women, and
how the critics call them art.
You roll and press those folds of flesh,
relishing yet another mocha.
How the critics call them art,
inspires a new perspective.
Relishing yet another mocha,
think about Rubens' women;
inspire a new perspective
naked in front of a full-length mirror.
(Note: the use of “poetic license” to omit the “and” in verse 3, line 2 as well as the “s” in “inspires.”)

PANTOUM GRID SAMPLE #2 – by Miriam Sagan
Here is the grid for the start of the pantoum:
____________________ (Line A)
____________________ (Line B)
____________________ (Line C)
____________________ (Line D)

____________________ (Line B)
____________________ (Line E)
____________________ (Line D)
____________________ (Line F)

____________________ (Line E)
____________________ (Line G)
____________________ (Line F)
____________________ (Line H)

And so on for as many stanzas as you want to write until the last, which has its own special form.

_______________ (Repetition from line 2 of previous stanza)
_______________ (Line 1 of the opening stanza of the pantoum)
_______________ (Repetition from line 4 of previous stanza)
_______________ (Line 3 of the opening stanza of the pantoum)

Another way to end the pantoum is to flip lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza so that the poem ends with the same line it began with:
_______________ (Repetition from line 2 of previous stanza)
_______________ (Line 3 from the opening stanza)
_______________ (Repetition from line 4 of previous stanza)
_______________ (Line 1 from the opening stanza)
This gives the feeling of a complete circle.

The pantoum's repetition and circular quality give it a mystical chant like feeling. Its cut-up lines break down linear thought. The form is both ancient and fresh.

Pantoum Example #2

== Paradise Came With a Price ==
by Dove Cochrane


For two days steady, rain blew though my open doors.
The clean white tile was splattered with a welcome change.
I should have known paradise came with a price.
The rain dripped on an empty chair and I missed you.

The clean white tile was splattered, welcome change.
Smothering heat escaped though unclosed windows
As the rain dripped on an empty chair, I still missed you.
And I felt a chill, the first in forty days

Smothering heat escaped though unclosed windows
As thunder roared a distant warning
I felt a chill, the second in forty-one days.
And wet leaves drooped with a heavy message

The thunder roared a distant message
I thrilled with primal response
And wet leaves drooped with a heavy message
As I remembered the sting of our last encounter

I thrilled with primal response
Outside a solitary bird trolled for his mate
As I remembered the sting of our last encounter
With a steady drone, the fan labored to move heavy air

Outside a solitary bird trolled for his mate
I should have known paradise came with a price
With a steady drone, the fan labored to move heavy air
And the rain dripped on an empty chair.


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