Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poetry Challenge #17: Pantoum

As always, before we get started, stop by last week's thread to check out my readers' offerings here.

The pantoum is a form that has origins in Malaysia, and it used to consist of two rhyming couplets that were intended to be recited or sung aloud. Over the years it has moved to being a poem of any length divided into four-line stanzas. The second and fourth lines of each stanza are used as the first and third lines of the following stanza. The repetitions can be changed in punctuation to change their meanings, or you may add or change a small word. Because of its high level of repetition, this poetic form is particularly well-suited for evoking a past time. 

Here is the professional example for this week. Note that this writer has chosen to just retain a few key words of her repeated lines, allowing her a bit more leeway:

Parent's Pantoum
by Carolyn Kizer

for Maxine Kumin

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

As they ignore our pleas to brighten up.
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention
Then we won't try to be dignified like them
Nor they to be so gently patronizing.

Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention.
Don't they know that we're supposed to be the stars?
Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children--second-childish?

Perhaps we're too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden,
So now we pout like children. Second-childish?
Quaint fragments of forgotten history?

Our daughters stroll together in the garden,
Chatting of news we've chosen to ignore,
Pausing to toss us morsels of their history,
Not questions to which only we know answers.

Eyes closed to news we've chosen to ignore,
We'd rather excavate old memories,
Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories?

Because they hate to excavate old memories
They don't believe our stories have an end.
They don't ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don't see that we've become their mirrors,

We offspring of our enormous children.

I think I will attempt a slightly shorter version of this form, borrowing the idea of varying the repeating lines. Here goes.


Seeking out my family roots
like stumbling around in the dark,
trying to find my missing half.
I try to put faces with the names.

Each new face emerges from the dark
of the unknown, a foothold in my mind,
a name, perhaps a place I’ve never been
attached to some lost fragment of myself.

Unknown footholds in my mind
form a new pathway for my thoughts to tread
attaching formerly lost self-fragments
constructing a harmonious whole.

New pathways lead my thoughts on,
imagining ghosts of past lives
the new harmony of my history
sings my new national anthem.

I’ll find where I belong.

You can read more about the origins of pantoum as well as more examples here
OK, now it's your turn. Have fun!


Muser said...

I took the pantoum-challenge

Phantom Pantoum

From the reeds of memory's marsh,
The phantom pantoum speaks itself.
It isn't owned by anyone.
It is composed of gathered sounds.

The phantom pantoum speaks, itself
An act of filling up a page or pause.
It's composed of gathered sounds.
It is a thing that's said or made.

An act of filling up a page or pause
May satisfy the phantom pantoum.
It is a thing that's said and made
But no one, maybe, that's heard or seen.

"May satisfy the phantom pantoum":
That is not a bold assertion,
Nor one, maybe, that's heard or seen.
The phantom pantoum's like a dream.

Hans Ostrom

Minerva said...

Hans--first, my apologies for delaying in replying to your poem for so long.

Thank you so much for honoring our little poetry group with your submission.

I love that you did a meta-pantoum. I also love how carefully you chose the repeated lines so that they were malleable and effective in their new environs. 1,000 points for your lovely phantom pantoum.

I do hope you will join us again sometime!

RevBev said...

You might like to look at http://www.bevrowe.info/Poems/Funerals.htm.

(And in connexion with your interest in Oulipo you might like http://www.bevrowe.info/Queneau/QueneauHome_v2.html)