How to: Pantoum

A pantoum poem form is a 600 year old malaysian style made popular in the 1800’s by Europeans. It was originally a form meant to be spoken as it is cylical and song-like. Every line is repeated twice. Traditionally, the pantoum was written 4 stanzas, each made of 4 lines with 8 syllables. In modern pantoums there is no set number of stanzas. Traditionally they used an ABBA rhyme but modern pantoums tend to follow an ABAB rhyme.

In order to write a pantoum, the first step is to write the first stanza.

The first line of your next stanza uses the second line of your previous stanza. The third line of your second stanza uses the fourth line of your previous stanza. Repeat this step for every stanza that follows except for your final stanza.

For the first line in your final stanza, use the second line of your previous stanza. The second line of your final stanza is the third line of the very first stanza. Your final stanza’s third line should come from the final line in your previous stanza, and the final line of your poem should be the same as the very first line in your poem.

If you were to write a pantoum with four stanzas, it would look like this:

line1

line2

line3

line4

 

line2

line5

line4

line6

 

line5

line7

line6

line8

 

line7

line3

line8

line1

As always, the poet has the option to follow the rules strictly or to bend them. Some poets have used similar lines instead of exact, while others have completely changed the final stanza.

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4 thoughts on “How to: Pantoum

  1. I love the fact that you pay attention to form, something I almost consider a lost art, kind of like tap dancing… a select few choose to preserve it and do a fine job of it. Kudos!

    • I’ve done alot of free-writing but then I started noticing that alot of my poems sounded very similar even when they were about different things lol. I think when it comes to any kind of writing, its not just what you say but how you say it. That’s the challenging part for me when I test out new styles 🙂

      • Hi Dave,
        As far as I understand, there are many variations on pantoums. I used the most common one I saw when I was researching, but I’d love to see how you write them. I hope you can spare a moment sometime to share how you learned to write pantoums.

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