Prompts

Create a pantoum. Prompt #107

So far, on The Write Spot Blog, the prompts have been nice and easy. How about challenging yourself with a pantoum?

Pantoum is the Western word for the Malayan pantun, a poetic form that first appeared in the fifteenth century, in Malayan literature. It existed orally before then.

The Western version of the pantoum is a poem of indefinite length made up of stanzas whose four lines are repeated in a pattern: lines 2 and 4 of each stanza are repeated as lines 1 and 3 of the next stanza.

___________________________________________________________  line 1

___________________________________________________________  line 2

___________________________________________________________  line 3

___________________________________________________________  line 4

___________________________________________________________  line 5 – same as line 2

___________________________________________________________   line 6

___________________________________________________________   line 7 – same as line 4

___________________________________________________________   line 8

___________________________________________________________   line 9 – same as line 6

___________________________________________________________   line 10 – same as line 3

___________________________________________________________   line 11 – same as line 8

___________________________________________________________   line 12 – same as line 1

PatternThe final stanza has a twist: The second and fourth lines are the same as the third and first lines of the first stanza. The first line of the poem is the same as the last. This way, every line is used twice.

Click on comments below to see samples of pantoums.

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34 comments

  1. mcullen Post author

    Watch Out
    A Pantoum by Marlene Cullen

    The garbage men are coming
    Through the backyard gate
    Past the tricycles, the clothesline
    Their squinting eyes, watching

    Through the backyard gate
    There are rules about where to hide
    Their squinting eyes, watching
    We hide in impossible places

    There are rules about where to hide
    Under the stove or the green velvet couch
    We hide in impossible places
    Eyes big with fright, we peer out

    Under the stove or the green velvet couch
    Past the tricycles, the clothesline
    Eyes big with fright, we peer out
    The garbage men are coming

  2. wrdpntr

    I love the sense of ominous darkness as seen from a child’s perspective in this poem, Marlene. It brings back the excitement of Hide and Seek, with its hint of danger or surprise.

  3. wrdpntr

    I wrote this pantoum in late July after watching a short video clip of Robin Williams and Koko, the signing gorilla. That was about two weeks before his suicide. I am glad to have it as a celebration of his uniqueness.

    Gorilla Pantoum: Koko and Robin Williams

    Koko and Robin cuddled and played
    Tears of love silenced the human’s tongue
    Koko begged for tickles.
    When she signed “thirsty” they stopped to drink.

    Tears of loved silenced the human’s tongue
    Eighteen years ago at a Chicago zoo
    When she signed “thirsty” they stopped to drink.
    A toddler mounted the structure’s railing.

    Eighteen years ago at a Chicago zoo
    Eager to enter the primate playground
    A toddler mounted the structure’s railing
    A loosened bail had flung him to the ground.

    Eager to enter the primate playground
    Eight-year-old Binti Jua climbed, baby on back
    A loosened bail had flung him to the ground
    The new mother carried the boy to safety.

    Eight-year-old Binti Jua climbed, baby on back
    Unaware of the humans’ frenzied response
    The new mother carried the boy to safety
    It was clear that she had saved his life.

    Unaware of the humans’ frenzied response
    Why did the world suspect the primate’s motives?
    It was clear that she had saved his life.
    The zoo staff received the accolades.

    Why did the world suspect the primate’s motives?
    Koko and Robin Williams cuddled and played.
    The zoo staff received the accolades.
    Koko begged for tickles.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Wow! This will go on the “read again” list. Thought provoking, brings up a good question and, of course, the poignancy of the timing of Wrdpntr’s writing this. . . definitely leaves me with much to think about. Thanks for posting.

  4. heartmom

    Barbara’s Braid

    Weaving strands of amber sheen
    Over, under, around and through
    Silky locks of golden sunlight
    Plaited patterns, moonbeam rows

    Over, under, around and through
    Brush strokes soothing on the scalp
    Plaited patterns, moonbeam rows
    A tapestry of honey glows

    Brush strokes soothing on the scalp
    Silky locks of golden sunlight
    Plaited patterns, moonbeam rows
    Weaving strands of amber sheen

    1. mcullen Post author

      Beautiful. Really well-written. Thanks for posting, Heartmom.

    2. wrdpntr

      I love the sensuousness of the details. It fairly shimmers off the page.

  5. Kathy Myers

    Good job Marlene. I like this format and will give it a try. This repetition is perfect for oral story telling. I imagine they sounded like chants. Are the “eyes big with fright” on cats?

    1. mcullen Post author

      Thanks, Kathy. If it helps, you can copy/paste the lines and use that as a worksheet to fill in the blanks. If you write a pantoum, I hope you will post it. I think you could write an awesome pantoum!

  6. wrdpntr

    Just one more…I can’t resist. This is a mostly true story:

    County Fair

    We sat on the edge of our folding chairs
    As the carnival hypnotist tested each subject.
    The heads of the impressionable hung like dying sunflowers
    As the mantra cast its magic.

    As the carnival hypnotist tested each subject
    I felt guilty that I’d coaxed my son.
    As the mantra cast its magic
    An awkward fourteen-year-old took the dare.

    I felt guilty that I’d coaxed my son;
    I chewed my lip as I watched him flap his wings.
    An awkward fourteen-year-old took the dare;
    He gathered invisible roses and beat his chest.

    I chewed my lip as I watched him flap his wings.
    We all believed he had succumbed.
    He gathered invisible roses and beat his chest;
    I marveled at his willingness to yield.

    We all believed he had succumbed
    Fallen under the charlatan’s spell.
    I marveled at his willingness to yield.
    Once they’re awake they won’t remember what they did.

    Fallen under the charlatan’s spell
    My son awoke and leapt from the stage.
    Once they’re awake they won’t remember what they did.
    Our eyes grew huge as he ticked off each command.

    My son awoke and leapt from the stage
    The urge to lose ourselves vies with the personal juror
    Our eyes grew huge as he ticked off each command
    We all return to the need for control.

    The urge to lose ourselves vies with the personal juror
    We sat on the edge of our folding chairs.
    We all return to the need for control.
    The heads of the impressionable hung like dying sunflowers.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Sensational writing. I love your choice of words, they pack a powerful punch: succumbed, charlatan, yield, vies and personal juror.

      And elegant phrases: “The heads of the impressionable hung like dying sunflowers” and “We all return to the need for control.”

      I love writing that informs, is thought-provoking and is elegant. Your writing, wrdpntr51, is all three. 🙂

      1. wrdpntr

        Thanks so much for your feedback, Marlene.

        1. mcullen Post author

          You betcha. It is a complete joy to read your writing. So glad we connected.

  7. Ke11y

    Where my dreams now lay shattered
    Her tears I barely consume
    Once so delicately scattered
    Ne’er bring me the smell of perfume

    Her tears I barely consume
    While the deepening tides of my grief
    Ne’er bring me the smell of perfume
    I’m adrift on memories reef

    While the deepening tides of grief
    Sail Viking moon so eerily bright
    I’m adrift on memories reef
    Their souls under waves in the night

    Sail Viking moon so eerily bright
    O’er kisses that should rise from the sea
    Their souls on waves in the night
    Ne’er resting under the limbs of a tree

    O’er kisses that should rise from the sea
    From those bottomless watery depths
    Ne’er resting under limbs of a tree
    Or six-feet under those yon grassy breadths

    From those bottomless watery depths
    Their hearts no boundaries strong
    Or six-feet under those yon grassy breadths
    Better lulled by leviathans’ songs

    Their hearts no boundaries strong
    Where they wander on storms
    Better lulled by leviathans’ songs
    And dolphins for them do perform

    Where they wander on storms
    Once so delicately scattered
    And dolphins for them do perform
    Where my dreams now lay shattered

    For Annika and Daniel, whose bodies were never recovered.

    September 28th 1994, The Estonia

    1. mcullen Post author

      Wow. Kelly, Lump in throat, tears threaten to spill over. Your writing is so professional, so exquisite. If I could wave a magic wand, I would have your writing transferred into a book, so many others can be transported by your writing, as I am. Thank you. Another good one for re-reading. Really, really well-written.

  8. Ke11y

    I’d just like to make an overall comment on the work above. There is so much ability, so much sensitivity, so much talent that I’m simply honored to be reading all of you. Truly. My hat is most definitely off. Thank you all for showing me your uncanny ability. It makes me want to be a better writer.

    1. mcullen Post author

      I think we’re all inspired to becoming better writers, as we read this amazing writing right here. Hats off to everyone. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for posting your lovely writing here.

  9. Ke11y

    …and Marlene, if I could bottle your many kindnesses, I’d offer it to anyone who wakes on any given morning and believes the blank page to be some kind of monster!

    1. mcullen Post author

      Chuckling here, Kelly. You brighten my day!

  10. Ke11y

    Let me pass where others have paced
    Talking kindly when you close the door
    Let me have lived with childlike grace
    Once or twice did the world explore

    Talking kindly when you close the door
    How I flew, and sailed, and loved
    Once or twice did the world explore
    Against every wrong did seek to shove

    How I flew, and sailed, and loved
    Let me have lived with childlike grace
    Against every wrong did seek to shove
    Let me pass where others have paced

    1. mcullen Post author

      Wow. The amazing power of the pantoum in your talented hands and mind.

  11. MorningStar

    Hi. I’m new here, and I’ve never written a pantoum before. There’s a tiny change in one of the lines of the last stanza — this is the very first draft, right away.

    A Pantun on a Hot Day

    I took the basket of wet laundry in the wheelbarrow to the line.
    The ram and one of the ewes stood in the field
    looking at a piece of white plumbing pipe lying in the grass.
    My back was to them while I hung the clothes.

    The ram and one of the ewes stood in the field
    by themselves, apart from the others, standing still.
    My back was to them while I hung the clothes,
    and I turned and walked away from them, back to the house.

    By themselves, apart from the others, standing still.
    I don’t know how long they stood there, didn’t watch the clock,
    and I turned and walked away from them, back to the house.
    It was hot and the ways of sheep are mysterious.

    I don’t know how long they stood there, didn’t watch the clock.
    More chores to do, in the house, and maybe time to rest outside.
    It was hot and the ways of sheep are mysterious.
    I thought it odd, going back, to see them yet looking.

    More chores to do, in the house, and maybe time to rest outside.
    The clothes dry quickly in Texas heat and wind.
    I thought it odd, going back, to see them yet looking,
    and wondered why the sheep would be out there.

    The clothes dry quickly in Texas heat and wind.
    As I unclipped the pegs I heard a sound I knew,
    and wondered why the sheep would be out there.
    We had no lambs; the neighbours kept no sheep.

    As I unclipped the pegs I heard a sound I knew.
    It came again; this time, I stopped and looked.
    We had no lambs; the neighbours kept no sheep.
    Why was a piece of plumbing pipe in the middle of the pasture?

    It came again; this time, I stopped and looked.
    The ram and ewe stood still all afternoon.
    Why was a piece of plumbing pipe in the middle of the pasture?
    A lamb, a young ram, was struggling to stand.

    The ram and ewe stood still all afternoon.
    Her first. We thought she was too young to be carrying.
    A lamb, a young ram, was struggling to stand.
    She didn’t know how to help him; I picked him up.

    Her first. We thought she was too young to be carrying.
    I couldn’t hold him and open the gate; I shouted for help.
    She didn’t know how to help him; I picked him up
    went for water, a towel, the things he’d need to live.

    I couldn’t hold him and open the gate; I shouted for help.
    The farmer came. We got in the truck, but first we waited,
    went for water, a towel, the things he’d need to survive.
    The man called his daughter-in-law to say we needed the lambing kit.

    The farmer came. We got in the truck, but first we waited.
    She talked at length about lambs and lambing.
    The man called his daughter-in-law to say we needed the lambing kit.
    I said, “I have this lamb dying in my arms.”

    She talked at length about lambs and lambing.
    I held this one who’d been outside too long.
    I said, “I have this lamb dying in my arms.”
    He tried to tell her, and I interrupted: “It doesn’t matter now.”

    I held this one who’d been outside too long,
    looking like a piece of white plumbing pipe lying in the grass.
    He tried to tell her, and I interrupted: “It doesn’t matter now.”
    I took the basket of wet laundry in the wheelbarrow to the line.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Thank you, MorningStar, this is a wonderful pantoum, or pantun. Thanks for posting.

        1. mcullen Post author

          You are very welcome, MorningStar. It’s a delight to have your writing here.

  12. Kathy Myers

    I love this format even though there’s some math involved.
    (5= 1, 9=6 etc.) Mine is titled;

    Cheerleader

    What I’ve learned is a lot
    craft and business, business and craft
    ass in a chair and a thousand a day
    writers write because they have to.

    What I’ve learned is a lot
    there is life after nine to five
    writers write because they have to
    Cullen coaxes us out of our resistance

    There is life after nine to five
    ass in a chair and a thousand a day
    Cullen coaxes us out of our resistance
    What I’ve learned is a lot.

    Thank you

    1. mcullen Post author

      Oh, Dear Kathy, thanks for the chuckle. Your writing (and you) truly do make me smile. Thanks for the tummy tickle!

  13. Ke11y

    Hello Morningstar; welcome.

    Being someone who lives on what we Brits call a farm, (though I love the term ‘ranch’ so much better) I could identify with what you’ve written. I enjoyed your writing a great deal, and loved how much industry was involved in completing the work. You are to be complimented. Bravo indeed.

  14. Elizabeth Beechwood

    I love the rhythm of this type of poem!

    I gather the spices.
    Vanilla bean curved like your smile
    Anise star for your heart
    Tied in a bundle.

    Vanilla bean curved like your smile
    Cinnamon stick legs and arms
    Tied in a bundle
    Ginger for your lungs

    Cinnamon stick legs and arms
    Tied in a bundle
    Ginger for your lungs
    All together in a pot of boiling water.

    I will drink the tea and read your guts
    Anise star for your heart
    Now gone but where?
    I gather the spices.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Wonderful to have your writing here, Elizabeth. Your pantoum is lively writing and a complete joy to read and experience!

  15. Ke11y

    Vanilla bean curved like your smile

    Yea! How much for this line? If you don’t give me a price, I will steal it!

    Applause…applause…applause

  16. Pingback: Barbara’s Braid – The Write Spot Blog by Marlene Cullen

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