>Pantoum

>I learned a long time ago that I am more productive in my writing when I have an assignment or have to meet a deadline. Since freelance writing consists primarily of deadlines, that works out well. Most of my work is finished just prior to deadline.

I find, however, that I often fail to carve out time for creative efforts. For the thirteen years I juggled home and work commitments with bachelor degree commitments, I had a good excuse. But we’re in our third year of the empty nest and it’s been over a year since I graduated from the University of Iowa, so I stand–head down, shoulders drooped, and limp arms hanging–without excuse.

Therefore, I’ve decided to give myself assignments. My first assignment will be to write a poem in a form that I’ve never used: the pantoum.

According to Robert Wallace in the yellowing pages of my copy of Writing Poems, a pantoum is a Malayan form. It contains an indefinite number of a b a b quatrain stanzas with lines 2 and 4 of each stanza becoming lines 1 and 3 of the following stanza. The carry-over lines are called repetons. The sequence ends with a quatrain that uses lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza in reversed order.

It seems similar to the sestina (which I’ve written) and especially the villanelle (which I’ve also written), except even more repetitive–and perhaps more difficult.

With any repetitive form like this, I think the trick is to come up with lines you really like–so you can bear hearing them repeated.

Before I even begin, I’m going public with my assignment. The reason is twofold: to force accountability, but also in the hope that one of my many readers will join me.

How about it? Anyone want to write and compare pantoums this week?

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