Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Plethora of Pantoums

Several weeks into Haiku-ca-choo!, our intrepid leader Kate formed a second Facebook group, Poetry Prom. The thought behind this group was to stretch our poetic wings and experiment with various formal poetic structures.

Initially, much like with the Haiku-ca-choo! group, Kate would set out an assignment, albeit by poetic form rather than by theme. Those of us who were game would then work with the assigned form and post our results on the group page.

The very first assignment was pantoums, a form I was unfamiliar with then. Pantoums are a Malay form of poetry and historically have been rhymed. As I noted just two days ago, I don't work well with rhymes. Luckily, a pantoum may also be unrhymed and, as you will see, all of mine are.

A pantoum is a highly structured poem. It is always written in quatrains (stanzas of four lines each). The second and fourth lines of each quatrain become the first and third line of the next quatrain until the final quatrain, which is so neatly tied back to the first and third lines of the first quatrain that you feel as if you are darning a sock.

I wrote a whole rash of pantoums and am planning on posting five of them this month. For me, they are little puzzles of words and pictures that, as the poet, I have to interlock in the course of the poem.

More than the other poetic forms, my pantoums often start with a distinct image that I have seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted. My first pantoum, set out below, was roughed out during a rehearsal I attended with Warren. The concert focused on Russian composers, and the exotic melodic lines worked their way into the poem, contrasting sharply with the cold theatre hall in which I sat.


 Notes on a Rehearsal

There should be half-shuttered rooms,
Dust motes in strong sunlight,
Scents of cinnamon, almond,
The faint ting of finger cymbals.

Dust motes in strong sunlight?
It is still winter here, with raggedy sunshine.
The faint ting of finger cymbals
Lost in the rush of wind.

It is still winter here, with raggedy sunshine,
No place for oriental fantasias.
Lost in the rush of wind,
The Old Quarter fades away.

No place for oriental fantasias,
Scents of cinnamon, almond;
The Old Quarter fades away.
There should be half-shuttered rooms.


see you there! said...

Amazing! I could hardly follow your directions but once I read your poem it became absolutely clear.

Looking forward to more.


Terri said...

I see that I should have read this post first! I love the sensual details in this poem.