Pantoum
A Fixed Form
I am grateful to Wendy Nottingham and Tom Reischel for providing the material for this page.

The Pantoum is a repeating form. It is written in linked 4-lined verses, usually rhyming abab, in which the second and fourth lines of each verse become the first and third lines of the next.

The form of the Pantoum comes full circle as the unrepeated first and third lines of the first verse are used, in reverse order, as the second and fourth lines of the last verse. As a result, the opening and closing lines of the poem are identical.

The Pantoum had its origins in the fifteenth century, in what is now Malaysia, as a short folk poem. In his notes to Les Orientales, Victor Hugo introduced the Pantoum to European poets. He showed that lines one and two deal with different subjects from lines three and four, the only link being that of rhyme.

The Pantoum was also popular in the nineteenth century with the French poets, Charles Baudelaire and Theodore de Banville and the English poet Austin Dobson. As the use of the Pantoum spread, the form was adapted; rhyme and shortness were no longer important.

Present day Pantoums can be of any length or line-length and often appear unrhymed. In some modern poems, it is only end words that are repeated rather than whole lines.

John Drury in The Poetry Dictionary states: 'In each quatrain, lines 1 & 2 are independent of lines 3 & 4. They deal with different subjects entirely'. I have tried to follow the original rules of repeated lines and of having lines 3 & 4 independent of lines 1 & 2 but my example, below, keeps an ‘imagery’ link throughout the whole poem.

The Summer Fair

by Wendy A. Nottingham.

                   High on the hill, where a thick forest grows,
                   The treetops glisten with an azure crown.
                   The traveller rests and a cooling breeze blows.
                   The road stretches far towards the town.

                                      The treetops glisten with an azure crown.
                                      The valley walls echo with sweet bird calls.
                                      The road stretches far towards the town.
                                      Sunlight strikes beauty on the castle walls.

                   The valley walls echo with sweet bird calls.
                   Music dances with laughter in carefree measure.
                   Sunlight strikes beauty on the castle walls.
                   Gossamer-filled breezes bring cheer and pleasure.

                                      Music dances with laughter in carefree measure.
                                      A townspeople’s fair was arranged for High June.
                                      Gossamer-filled breezes bring cheer and pleasure.
                                      The lord turns his lady to a quick merry tune.

                   A townspeople’s fair was arranged for High June.
                   A ribbon-decked knight lifts his shield and his lance.
                   The lord turns his lady to a quick merry tune.
                   A falcon soars free in a breathtaking dance.

                                      A ribbon-decked knight lifts his shield and his lance.
                                      The traveller rests and a cooling breeze blows.
                                      A falcon soars free in a breathtaking dance,
                                      High on the hill, where a thick forest grows.

The Pantoum lends itself to hybrid forms like the PANTOUM-SONNET

An example of this form is given below. This was written by Tom Reischel of the USA. I am grateful for his agreement to use his poem and notes on the form appearing below it.

                     Pink Ladies

                                             A Pantoum Sonnet by Tom Reischel

            These lilies grace the hedge in luscious pink.
            Their petals open like a mother's arms.
            Inviting butterflies to take a drink
            Of nectar, adding to their floral charms.

            Their petals open like a mother's arms.
            Pink ladies fill the air with lovely scent
            Of nectar, adding to their floral charms.
            We savor them to maximum extent.

            Pink ladies fill the air with lovely scent,
            And lend their vibrant color to the scene.
            We savor them to maximum extent.
            They look so beautiful against the green.

            Inviting butterflies to take a drink,
            These lilies grace the hedge in luscious pink.

In this, the characteristics of the two formats are used. A Pantoum is a repeating poem whose second and fourth lines become the first and third lines of the next stanza, and so on. In one form of Sonnet is the 14 lines of poem with 12 lines of alternate rhyme abab and a closing rhyming couplet. This type of Sonnet can be formed in the contemporary manner of three quatrains with a closing couplet, or in the traditional way of 14 lines together. So, the Sonnet contains a rippling set of repeated lines. It also closes with the first and third lines of the first stanza as the rhyming couplet. Only it is done in reverse order, so that first line of the poem becomes the last. The rhyme scheme for the particular form of Pantoum Sonnet as above is:
A1/B1/A2/B - B1/C1/B2/C2/ - C1/D1/C2/D2/ - A2/A1.


A Note on Formal and Free Verse
Literary Terms
Metre
Triolet
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