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The pantoum, or pantun, is a form originating in Malaysia which was brought to the French language by Ernest Fouinet (not Victor Hugo, contrary to popular belief). It was popularized by Victor Hugo and later Charles Beaudlaire. In a pantoum, the lines are interlocking and the first line is identical to the last line, which gives the poem a static or a cyclical feeling.

A pantoum has no set meter, but many use iambic tetrameter in the style of a ballad. The poem is comprised of any number of quatrains rhyming ABAB. Personally, I enjoy those which rhyme ABAB-BABA-ABAB and so on with only two sets of rhymes, but that is not required of a pantoum. The main ingredient in this intriguing and haunting form is the repetition.

The main element of a pantoum is the fact that the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the next stanza respectively. Illustrated with letters representing the line, the structure is ABCD/BEDF/EGFH and so on. In the last stanza, some sources say the first and third lines of the entire poem should respectively become the fourth and second lines of the last stanza. Letting x and y be the second and fourth lines of the second to last stanza it would end up being xCyA. However, some sources only say that the first line of the poem should reappear again as the last line of the poem. Most pantoums I have seen either start and end with the same line with the second line of the last stanza being a new unrepeated line or just have the second and last lines of the last stanza be new unrepeated lines.

When writing a pantoum, the poet should keep in mind that the lines will be repeated in a different place and slightly different context. Often, some lines show an object or setting and others contain descriptions which then modify two different objects or places or actions which two things do. If you think along those lines, it may make it easier to write a pantoum. I enjoy reading and writing this form for the haunting repetition which leads to many interesting images. I find that it is great for depicting a mood or feeling and a description of a certain type of memory. A pantoum has charm and depth in the words and they are enjoyable to both read and write.
This is another informative write up about poetic forms, written by ~ alenia.
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darkcrescendo Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2003  Hobbyist Writer
An interesting form indeed... I will have to experiment further with this one.

[Please comment on my first attempt 'Dark Meditations' at my page...I'd like some feedback on style, and to check if I follow the basic structure of the Pantoum]

elenehn Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2003
This is actually in response to ~prevail's comment on tessuraea's pantoum, but it was kind of directed at a couple places, and I'm feeling like talking....

SO as not to clutter up the comments on Tess' pantoum with discussion that should end up here anyway....

We actually spent some time together talking about taking slight liberties with the repeated lines, mostly in changing it's to the's, and's and or's, but in a few other small ways too, and decided that the changes still left the line intact, and for me, in a form that's read aloud, the changes falling on unstressed syllables would pass almost unnoticed.

Though, I admit I'd have been happier with perfect repetition, it just wasn't going to work in this one. I'm hoping that growing more comfortable with the form will change that, maybe give me a better instinct in choosing lines. I'd really like to hear other thoughts about this too.

And with that, it really, honestly is time to sleep. :) (Smile) Hope this didn't end up sounding terse... I'm going for "inviting and conversational".
tessuraea Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2003   Writer
It's a good theme you're beating to death. :) (Smile)

Finished a very short one tonight. Ran out of everything I would need to make it long, like words that rhyme, patience, and brain cells.

Probably a good thing I didn't have alcohol or I would have fallen asleep first!

I'll make another attempt at the form soon I think. I like it. I did the ABAB BABA, and only 16 lines. I think I'll try the looser rhyme scheme and go for longer. Tetrameter was hard too at first.
elenehn Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2003
Hmm... a form good for writing memories eh?

Time to go attack the theme I'm beating to death and test this out. :) (Smile)
tessuraea Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2003   Writer
I'll try my hand at one.

From my first few scrawlings, it is clear that this, more than any other form I write, is The Poem That Will Not End. :) (Smile)

poetic-forms Featured By Owner May 31, 2003   Writer
try to bring the idea of the poem back around to the begining. Or something like the begining idea. when pantoums get really long it's hard to end them if you aren't used to the form. Reading other pantoums is good for getting an idea of how to end them. Good luck!

On another note, the first pantoum I've read, Harmonie du Soir, actually rhymes ABBA/BAAB/ABBA/BAAB. I hadn't remembered that when writing this up. The sources I found weren't all that clear so I just had to piece ideas together.
fallingsilver Featured By Owner May 31, 2003
I'm trying to write this one...but having difficulty ending it.
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