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National Poetry Month: Day 19

Before Waking

The things I wake up wanting:
The touch of summer transformed
Though they come in a thousand forms
Their meaning is ever the same.

The touch of summer transformed
a cracked curtain into a sunbeam:
Their meaning is ever the same,
All struck dead by autumn’s coming

A cracked curtain into a sunbeam
Miraculously has grown and faded,
All struck dead by autumn’s coming
the summer symptoms shall recede.

Miraculously has grown and faded,
The things I wake up wanting:
the summer symptoms shall recede
Though they come in a thousand forms.

Delilah Des Anges

Pantoums, made up entirely of repeating lines, require more tinkering than I’m used to in order to make them work. Because there are no linking lines as in a villanelle, and because unlike a sestina the whole line, not merely the end word, is repeated, it is important to imbue each line with appropriate ambiguity that it will work both with the lines it originally accompanies and the lines which accompany it, which are also to be repeated later. It’s a rather intricate puzzle, becoming more difficult the more specific a line is.

As you can see here I’ve kept the lines quite vague, and even then I had to go back and reword some of them slightly in order to make sense of the overall shape; punctuation is less of a bother, because that can be shuffled about and changed with impunity, but the specific words themselves should be exactly the same! Although this makes the form sound as much of a challenge to the poet as anything else, it can also be an enjoyable ride for the reader.

If you’re interested in writing one for yourself, this is the format I used:

Stanza 1 A B C D

Stanza 2 B E D F

Stanza 3 E G F H

Stanza 4 G A H C

but there are other variations, equally valid, and deviations from the form should be seen as creative innovations rather than failings in the writer.


Throughout this month I will be nagging readers to donate to MSF

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