How to write a pantoum poem

Yesterday I wrote about how I write poetry.

It’s a simple formula and one that usually works for me. My only regret is that I far too often either don’t have the time to devote to poetry – or I don’t make the time. As a prize winning poet I know I should be writing more.

The regular monthly poetry writers’ group I attend is one thing that keeps me writing poetry on a regular basis. Each month we set a writing challenge for the following meeting. Some of the challenges last year were really inspiring, and hearing everyone’s take on the one challenge is very interesting. The critiquing of each poem is also valuable. There are many benefits to belonging to a writers’ group.

In this coming month we were set the task of writing a pantoum on the theme of obsession. Now, I’ve never written a pantoum and have resisted doing so until now. I thought it was too hard, too complex. I was wrong. A few days ago I managed to write a pantoum called Obsessed by Sonnets. That’s right – I wrote a pantoum about writing sonnets! Go figure.

What is a pantoum?

Good question.

It is a poem of Malay origins and has undergone a few  adaptations on its way into English poetry circles via the French. Essentially it consists of the following:

  1. A set of four lined stanzas (quatrains) – anything from three stanzas and up.
  2. It has a simple abab rhyming pattern throughout.
  3. It is often metred but I believe that this is not a strict rule. However, metred poems always sound wonderful when read aloud.
  4. Lines are repeated in a strict pattern.
  5. Lines 2 and 4 of the each stanza become 1st and 3rd lines of the next stanza. This is repeated throughout the poem until the last stanza.
  6. In the last stanza, the so far unrepeated 1st and 3rd lines of the first stanza become the 2nd and 4th lines – but in reverse order. This means the poem comes full circle and the last line is a repeat of the first line of the poem.  This gives the whole work a very satisfying feel to it.

I’ll now be very brave and publish here a pantoum I wrote this afternoon. Note that a few words here and there have been changed to make grammatical or narrative sense.

What is a pantoum?

A pantoum is challenging to write,
It’s a poem of elegance and grace.
With stanzas of four lines – that’s right –
And a rhyming pattern to face.

It’s a poem of elegance and grace,
With quatrains for stanzas I’m sure,
And a rhyming pattern to face,
Not to mention a message that’s pure.

With quatrains for stanzas I’m sure,
And a metre so regular too,
I won’t mention my message so pure,
For I’m planning to entertain you.

It’s my metre that’s regular too,
With stanzas of four lines – that’s right –
For I’m planning to entertain you
With a pantoum that’s challenging to write.

All rights reserved.
Copyright 2010 Trevor Hampel.

 

6 Responses to “How to write a pantoum poem”

  1. Trevor says:

    I thought I’d get in the first comment here.
    Please everyone – if you don’t like the poem above, please be gentle with me. It’s only the second pantoum I’ve ever written – I’m still learning this delicate new art form. (New to me that is).

  2. Ken Rolph says:

    If you want some really off poetry, try finding a rhyme to penguin.

    http://orangedale.livejournal.com/51022.html

  3. Trevor says:

    Would you accept “sanguine” to rhyme with “penguin”

  4. redboy321 says:

    Its not pantoum its actually pantun… ;P

  5. Dakota says:

    Very nice job here. Clearly pantoums are one of the more difficult forms of poetry to write. Fantastic work.

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