CU Poetry at the Champaign Public Library - the Pantoum

  • Champaign Public Library room 215 200 W Green St Champaign, IL, 61820 United States

And you thought the villanelle was hard...                                                                

So we had a request for the pantoum -                                                                    

 the following a definite definition to follow the herd                                             

be sure to have fun and play with it - zoom

 

so we had this request for the pantoum                                                             

which uses the 1st and 3rd lines as the 2nd and 4th                                              

be sure to have fun and play with it  - zoom                                                             

all endings ending like the beginning and so forth

 

so use the 1st and 3rd lines as the 2nd and 4th                                                     

the following a definite definition to follow the herd                                               

all endings ending like the beginning and so forth                                                

and you thought the villanelle was hard    

                                                                   

from poetic asides 

"The pantoum is a poetic form originating in Malay where poets write quatrains (4-line stanzas) with an abab rhyme scheme and repeat lines 2 and 4 in the previous stanza as lines 1 and 3 in the next stanza.

 

Poets differ on how to treat the final quatrain: Some poets repeat lines 1 and 3 of the original quatrain as lines 2 and 4 in the final quatrain; other poets invert lines 1 and 3 so that the beginning line of the poem is also the final line of the poem."

from poets.org 

The pantoum originated in Malaysia in the fifteenth-century as a short folk poem, typically made up of two rhyming couplets that were recited or sung. However, as the pantoum spread, and Western writers altered and adapted the form, the importance of rhyming and brevity diminished. The modern pantoum is a poem of any length, composed of four-line stanzas in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first.

The pantoum was especially popular with French and British writers in the nineteenth-century, including Charles Baudelaire and Victor Hugo, who is credited with introducing the form to European writers. The pantoum gained popularity among contemporary American writers such as Anne Waldman and Donald Justice after John Ashbery published the form in his 1956 book, Some Trees.

A good example of the pantoum is Carolyn Kizer’s “Parent’s Pantoum," the first three stanzas of which are excerpted here:

  Where did these enormous children come from,
  More ladylike than we have ever been?
  Some of ours look older than we feel.
  How did they appear in their long dresses

  More ladylike than we have ever been?
  But they moan about their aging more than we do,
  In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
  They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

  They moan about their aging more than we do,
  A somber group--why don’t they brighten up?
  Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity
  They beg us to be dignified like them

One exciting aspect of the pantoum is its subtle shifts in meaning that can occur as repeated phrases are revised with different punctuation and thereby given a new context. Consider Ashbery’s poem “Pantoum," and how changing the punctuation in one line can radically alter its meaning and tone: “Why the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying.” which, when repeated, becomes, “Why, the court, trapped in a silver storm, is dying!”

An incantation is created by a pantoum’s interlocking pattern of rhyme and repetition; as lines reverberate between stanzas, they fill the poem with echoes. This intense repetition also slows the poem down, halting its advancement. As Mark Strand and Eavan Boland explained in The Making of a Poem, “the reader takes four steps forward, then two back," making the pantoum a “perfect form for the evocation of a past time.”