The pantoum - a timeless poetic style

April is national poetry month! It’s that time of year when we celebrate a genre of writing that most people either love or hate. For those of you who do not know me personally, I fall firmly in the “love” category and spend a decent amount of my free time writing in this genre.

My usual form for writing poetry is free verse, where there is no specific line length, rhyme scheme, or format. In free verse everything is up to the writer, and I love that ability to write whatever comes through my head. It is my way of exploring the world and how I relate to it. For this post however, I decided to do something a little different. The following poem is a modern pantoum. Example of pantoum formatTraditionally, pantoums consisted of two or three stanzas. Additionally, alternating lines in each stanza had to rhyme. Modern pantoums have no limit in terms of length, and many do not rhyme at all. The defining feature of the pantoum form, both traditional and modern, is the four line stanzas. More specifically, lines “b” and “d” of one stanza always come back as the first and third lines of the next one. This means each line of the poem is included twice, and the meaning of the line can change from one stanza to the next.

My favourite thing about pantoums is their circular rhythm. The ideas keep coming back and then interacting with new ideas in different ways. It creates a very clear path for how the poem moves and comes full circle as lines “a” and “c” become lines “d” and “b” respectively in the final stanza. In other words, the poem ends with the same line it started with. It comes full circle. The poem could nearly go on forever by repeating itself. However, there is a difference between the two times we encounter these lines. The final stanza creates a completely different context than the beginning and so the meaning of the line has changed. The poem has gone on a journey and taken the reader along with it.

I hope you enjoy my latest poetic creation and take some time to explore this fantastically diverse genre as we head into poetry month 2019.

Timeless

Hands cover still face

Unblinking, unseeing

Yet counting hours

Unceasing

  

Unblinking, unseeing

Unhearing, but speaking

Unceasing

Pulsing ticks

  

Unhearing, but speaking

Shouting from rooftops

Pulsing ticks

Drive some people crazy

  

Shouting from rooftops

Early morning celebrations

Drive some people crazy

Until night falls again

  

Early morning celebrations

Sun pours through the windows

Until night falls again

The world waits and wonders

  

Sun pours through the windows

New energy and hope

The world waits and wonders

This will go on forever

  

New energy and hope

Some faith in tomorrow

This will go on forever

Our solace in light

  

Some faith in tomorrow

We drift off to sleep

Our solace in light

We lie in darkness

  

We drift off to sleep

Evening has come

We lie in darkness

The sun is gone

  

Evening has come

The world slows

The sun is gone

Blackness surrounds

  

The world slows

It does not stop

Blackness surrounds

The breeze stirs

  

It does not stop

Growing, changing

The breeze stirs

The curtains in the window

  

Growing, changing

The night moves towards morning

The curtains in the window

Still once again

  

The night moves towards morning

Pausing at dawn

Still once again

Before the sun rises

  

Pausing at dawn

The chime of a bell

Before the sun rises

A gift to the world

  

The chime of a bell

A new hour in time

A gift to the world

Another moment alive

  

A new hour in time

Continue the circle

Another moment alive

Meeting the sun

  

Continue the circle

Winding its way

Meeting the sun

Time and time again

  

Winding its way

Yet counting hours

Time and time again

Hands cover still face

 

Old clock

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