Poetry challenge #21: Pantoum

The last couple of challenges have concentrated on the shape of the poem. I said we were going to change the emphasis a little, so this week’s challenge is going to concentrate on the repetition of an idea in a refrain. Yesterday I posted a quatern. Here, the first lines becomes a refrain that slides through the four stanzas until it becomes the closing line of the poem. There is a slight change of emphasis to the words as the line changes its place in the poem. Today, I’m challenging you to try writing a pantoum, a similar but rather more complicated idea.

A pantoum goes like this:

Arranged in four line stanzas in as many stanzas as you need.

It’s usual for the alternate lines to rhyme, but if you have problems with that, and I know not every likes to use rhyme, just make sure you get a rhythm going. Eight beats is the norm, but you can work with seven and nine too. As long as it flows reasonably.

Lines 1 and 3 of each new stanza repeat lines 2 and 4 of the preceding one.

Rinse and repeat as long as you like. It’s not essential, but very satisfying to write a final stanza using the first and third lines of the opening stanza as your second and final lines. This makes the poem come full circle.

For the wiki explantion if mine is tortuous.

It sounds like a lot of rhymes but since every stanza contains a repeat, it isn’t so many in the end. Think of it as a song. The essential is to keep it flowing and make sense.

Please post your links in the comments. I hope you’ll try out this form, and if the rhymes get to you, just sing it.

Here is a pantoum version of yesterday’s quatern, We are going into the night.

 

We are going into the night,

Treading the path of the dark,

Leaving the land of the light,

Of sun and sky and the lark.

 

Treading the path of the dark,

Taking our memories dear,

Of sun and sky and the lark,

A lantern to chase away fear.

 

Taking our memories dear,

Down the river that runs ever on,

A lantern to chase away fear,

We sail in our boat, a white swan.

 

Down the river that runs ever on,

Between banks of light and twilight,

We sail in our boat, a white swan,

Hands clasped in this short respite.

 

Between banks of light and twilight,

We are going into the dark,

Hands clasped in this short respite,

Of sun and sky and the lark.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

46 thoughts on “Poetry challenge #21: Pantoum”

    1. I know it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and I’m fully expecting to get fewer entries this week. But the triolet challenge had a big response, and that’s trickier, if anything.

      1. When I first started looking into these rhyming forms I couldn’t imagine tacking anything with such rigid-sounding rules. But it isn’t so hard if you have something to say.

      2. Part of the problem, in my case, I know, is a laziness about rules. Anything like recipes, operating instructions or directions, I’ll gloss over. It’s a real effort to just read the rules slowly and carefully until understood.

      3. I find it helpful to read what others post first, because I too have trouble figuring out word directions. But when I see a few different examples, then it starts to make sense.

      4. You caught me out. That’s exactly what I do. I skim through the how to write this kind of poem instructions, and I go find an example or two. It’s only looking at the result and seeing it on the page that it makes sense. The bare rules mean absolutely nothing to me.

    1. Try to think of the positive aspects—out of every four line stanza, two of the lines are repeats, and in the last stanza, all the lines are repeats. Means less than half the poem is ‘original’.

  1. This is a nice challenge, and I enjoyed your example, Jane.
    I thought for sure I’d have to pass on this one, but I guess I just needed to get my head into it.

    Falling Leaves

    Slowly drifting, turning ‘round
    Riding on the faintest breeze
    Floating past without a sound
    Omen of a coming freeze

    Riding on the faintest breeze
    Vibrant hues of red and gold
    Omen of a coming freeze
    Season’s passing here foretold

    Vibrant hues of red and gold
    Gentle, still, upon a stream
    Seasons passing, here foretold
    A vessel now, so it would seem

    Gentle, still upon a stream
    Floating past without a sound
    A vessel now, so it would seem
    Slowly drifting, turning ‘round

    https://rivrvlogr.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/falling-leaves-2/

    1. I like it Kim. The words in the last line are changed ever so slightly, but it just adds to the slightly askew atmosphere. This character seems more like a leviathan than a human being.

      1. I wanted to convey the relationship between man and marsh – the tinged resentment that they can’t leave and the feeling of belonging and inability to let go. It’s still there in Norfolk, even in the young people.

  2. Couldn’t manage the rhyme for this grim little piece.

    The hand that grips is senseless
    Cruel fingers doing her bidding
    Blank eyes wide open on her soul
    Squeezing life out of my hand.

    Cruel fingers doing her bidding
    Screams of lust, demanding I have the answer
    Squeezing the life out of my hand
    Midwife bustles as if in Sainsburys.

    Screams of lust demanding I have the answer;
    Gulps of gas to deaden her agony.
    Midwife bustles as if in Sainsburys,
    Urging her to squeeze, me to hope.

    Gulps of gas to deaden her agony
    Pull away and feel the pain again,
    Urging her to squeeze, me to hope.
    Worried frowns, despair lurking in the corner.

    Pull away and feel the pain again,
    Slimy rush of mucus and daughter.
    Worried frowns, despair lurking in the corner
    Lifeless, gone before she came.

    Slimy rush of mucus and daughter;
    Blank eyes wide open on her soul.
    Lifeless, gone before she came
    The hand that grips is senseless.

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