Prompt No. 9 for 12/5/13

Hello Cupertino! Today’s prompt is not based on the poem I found myself writing today (strange and personal and not ready for prime time) but on a very special form of poetry called the pantoum.

The Poetry Foundation defines a pantoum as “a Malaysian verse form adapted by French poets and occasionally imitated in English. It comprises a series of quatrains, with the second and fourth lines of each quatrain repeated as the first and third lines of the next. The second and fourth lines of the final stanza repeat the first and third lines of the first stanza.” You can browse their site for poems written in this form. Contemporary and still emerging poets publishing in this form today include Natalie Diaz, Evie Shockley and the current U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey.  The Academy of American Poets also discusses the pantoum and offers examples. Many poets of a generation ago such as Carolyn Kizer, John Ashbery, Donald Justice and Anne Waldman have written in the form.

While it might seem daunting, I think writing in a form is often easier for novice poets, because the form tells you what to do. In this case, the form says: write four lines, then re-use two of them. Then re-use two more. Keep going until you get bored or run out of ideas for new lines. Then stop. I’m not asking you to write a great pantoum; that comes with experience (and luck sometimes) but is not your challenge today. Today I challenge you to try and see what comes. The attached photo shows how the line repetition works.

I am currently writing a pantoum that I started on Tuesday. I’m adding new stanzas, new lines, new ideas a little at a time, as the days go by. This kind of poem is also fun to write with a partner, so give that a try, if you are feeling adventurous. As always, I’ll put up my poem draft and associated images on Tumblr A Lane of Yellow this weekend.

And if you’re still on the fence, start with these two lines and see where they lead you:

December is a colder and darker month
The sky is black more than it’s blue.

2 thoughts on “Prompt No. 9 for 12/5/13

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