I’m writing in haste as this looks like the day we’re going to tackle our back garden meadow (grass uncut all season) and the sunshine and garden shears are calling me. I’m putting together an informal, low-key workshop for Trowbridge Stanza based on the pantoum, which the Poetry Foundation explains well here and includes sample poems. The Poetry Foundation’s glossary describes the 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.
I first found out about the pantoum form by reading a blog from Warwick University by David Morley which unfortunately I can’t find online any more. I know that David Morley has included pantoums in some of his collections and that he is an aficionado of the form. A. E. Stallings, John Ashbery and Donald Justice are other poets famous for writing pantoums. You probably know many more – please tell me!
One of my favourite pantoum poems is ‘Incident’ by Natasha Trethewey, a stunning poem about lynching which I return to many times.
The subtle repetition of lines and circular nature of the form suits subjects that we revisit and strive to make sense of over time but that doesn’t mean to say that any poet should feel obliged to obey strict rules (as if!). There is more to read about the pantoum at the Academy of American Poets here.
Have you used the form and do you have favourite pantoums to recommend? All links and recommendations appreciated. Here’s one I wrote, published in my book.
Meanwhile, I won’t scare you with a picture of our wild garden but here is a recent bloom from one of our hydrangeas (front garden – moderately less wild).