TheWombwellRainbow #PoeticFormChallenge #PANTOUM was last week’s chosen form. Robert Frede Kenter, Alice Stainer, Tim Fellows, Jane Dougherty, Spriha Kant, Samantha Terrell and myself

pantoum lettered

¬Bedtime Routine: A Pantoum

Six pillows line our headboard
They’re not for sleeping on
They’re for looking at
A destiny never completely fulfilled

They’re not for sleeping on
Expensive velvet envelopes
A destiny never completely fulfilled
In silence he tosses them into a corner

Expensive velvet envelopes
In sunlight he replaces them
In silence he tosses them into a corner
This is how to hate a pillow

In sunlight he replaces them
A duty fulfilled nearly every morning
This is how to hate a pillow
This is how to love a wife

How Did It Go?

I had never written a pantoum (at least not that I can remember), so this was a fun challenge. I wrote about my husband’s resentment of what he feels are “pointless” toss pillows. As I was going through the prescribed line repetitions, I realized the pantoum form was a helpful way to capture the doldrums he must feel when dutifully moving these pillows around our bedroom. I chose to use the form in which the last quatrain breaks the rules a bit because it suited my message best and allowed me to elevate the poem onto another plane of meaning.

-Jessica Whipple

Procession (A Pantoum)

Under the bridges inside their eyes
Your mouth is a glass bird
Take the broken cup measure its size
The world is spinning with new words

Your mouth is a glass bird
This long cold winter in river town
The world is spinning with new words
Bang on drums until the songs are done

This long cold winter in river town
Lift your sacred forms in the market
Bang on drums until the songs are done
As they have always done come the river workers

Lift your sacred forms in the market
In frozen trees the howling night dies
As they have always done come the river workers
Under the bridges inside their eyes

There are dancers moving for resistance
In the dark room where Greed the Bird King lies dying
As they have always done come the river workers
Rich with the timbres of morning birds and frankincense

In the dark room where Greed, the Bird King lies dying
Alter the mask maker’s gaze
For your cup was a glass bird shattering
There are dancers moving for resistance

How Did It Go?

This is my first try at a Pantoum – I’ve been compiling some older work for a manuscript and came across a poem I wrote many years ago, when living in the East Village, NYC. At the time, I was studying and working with The Performance Group at their warehouse-theatre on Wooster Street. The early poem was about my, at the time, reflections on colonial Canadian history, rituals of performance,
exploring experimental tropes. Before I had even read about Pantoum form, in prep for ‘Procession’, I thought that the NYC poem would be good to re-imagine, to build on its repeating words and imagery.
Although this was intuitive, I thought maybe I could use it as a foundation for a Pantoum; as I had seen pantoums referred to in association with Ghazals. Paul sent some helpful links.
I read John Ashbery’s ‘Pantoum’, looked over some notes at the poets.org site, and in reading of its oral-song-form origins in Malaysian folk poetry, realized (by osmosis) that the poem I had picked to reimagine was in fact an excellent choice (as it was /is) a poem about music, public life, choral protest.
I circled key images or phrases from my original poem and used a few as image-keys for the Pantoum in the first stanza and stanza 5 – with most difficulties in writing coming in stanza 1’s last line, which I had to edit, redo, rethink, reflect on and remove, to replace 3 tries, in the end w/a completely new line, more integral to the mood of the newly emerging Pantoum.
After I finished a draft, I read a couple of Pantoums at poets.org: Carolyn Kizer’s ‘Parent’s Pantoum’ and Airea Matthews’s ‘Descent of the Composer’. These both enabled me to see clearly that I could stick to the spirit of the classical Pantoum but also deviate w/regard to line repetitions, line-lengths, rhythm patterns. So, this was process oriented, a poem-study-process, in total a sort of auto-didactic workshop.

-Robert Frede Kenter

Badlands

These are the badlands of the unsound mind,
drained to aridity by river retreat
in ravines so deep you lose track of yourself,
riven by ironies of frequent rain.

Drained to aridity by river retreat,
nothing green grows on the stripped red rock,
riven by ironies of frequent rain
while monstrous hoodoos loom overhead.

Nothing green grows. On the stripped red rock
there’s no blanket of scrub to wrap you round.
While monstrous hoodoos loom overhead,
there’s nowhere to hide on the shattered plain.

There’s no blanket of scrub to wrap you round
in remorseless scourings of the wind.
There’s nowhere to hide on the shattered plain,
refuge is eroded bit by bit.

In remorseless scourings of the wind,
loosened rock-chips plunge into chasms.
Refuge is eroded bit by bit.
Echoes rebound, then return the silence.

Loosened rock-chips plunge into chasms;
in ravines so deep, you lose track of yourself.
Echoes rebound, then return the silence
that booms in the badlands of the unsound mind.

How Did It Go?

This is the first pantoum I’ve ever attempted, so I made the decision that although I was going to aim for a certain consistency of rhythm, I would avoid full-blooded rhyming – partly for simplicity and partly because I decided to aim for haunting echoes rather than direct chimes, in keeping with the interesting reverberations created by the repeated recontextualising of lines. To this end, I have used a lot of consonance and assonance instead. The initial challenges are selecting a subject suited to the interweavings and subtle shifts of the form, and then writing the first stanza as a kind of launch pad. Once you have that, you have some scaffolding to work around. I then wrote a lot of standalone lines and began to play around with how I might thread them together meaningfully. It is tricky to attain a sense of fluidity because the lines need to have their own integrity, but with a few tweaks of punctuation, I tried to minimise the blocky, end-stopped quality. It is also a challenge to put adequate pressure on the lines that they might acquire additional nuances. I don’t think I wholly succeeded in this regard, but it was absorbing to try! I have taken a tiny liberty with the ending, but I don’t apologise for this. I think a fuller resonance was required for impact.

-Alice Stainer

Thoughts for Autumn

Every morning do you wonder where it went?
Are those days of violent beauty long-since passed?
Are the crafted words you utter somehow less intelligent?
Did you ever really think that it would last?

Are those days of violent beauty long-since passed?
Are the summers and the winters just the same?
Did you ever really think that it would last?
Has eternal sunshine turned to endless rain?

Are the summers and the winters just the same?
Does each wind that blows create a mortal chill?
Has eternal sunshine turned to endless rain?
Is time just another thing for you to kill?

Does each wind that blows create a mortal chill?
Are the cadences and rhythms now all dead?
Is time just another thing for you to kill?
Has the music fallen silent in your head?

Are the cadences and rhythms now all dead?
Is the fire of promise so completely spent?
Has the music fallen silent in your head?
Every morning do you wonder where it went?

How Did It Go?

This was much better for me than the sestina!  I don’t normally write around an end-rhyming scheme, but liked the way it made the relentless rhythm chug along which I felt echoed the subject matter and the repetition of lines really gave the poem a clear structure from the start, which was very helpful in determining its direction.

-Louise Longson

White Giant

We watch them, fascinated by their skin,
their odd-shaped head and tiny eyes.
Slowly munching, grass and brush,
unimpressed by what they saw.
Their odd-shaped head and tiny eyes
watching us, though nearly blind,
unimpressed by what they saw –
these weird two-legged freaks!
Watching us, though nearly blind,
do they know that, on these trucks,
these weird two-legged freaks
are the biggest danger in their world?
Do they know that, on these trucks,
we don’t hide the fact that we
are the biggest danger in their world,
and yet their fate seems sealed.
We don’t hide the fact that we
try our best to save them all
and yet their fate seems sealed;
because we have no answer.

Try our best to save them all?
We slowly drive into the dusk.
Because we have no answer,
another species slips away
their odd shaped heads
their tiny eyes
their missing horn.

How Did It Go?

I found this surprisingly tricky considering I write a few villanelles, which are even more constrained. It was inspired by seeing white and black rhinos in the wild.

-Tim Fellows

Quai d’Orfèvres
(an ekphrastic poem based on an old photo of a bookseller, dressed in black, quai d’Orfèvres who looks on disapprovingly at a young couple kissing)

On the edge, quai d’Orfèvres
muffled and wrapped, tense and haughty
dried dark husk I sit
alone, alone

muffled and wrapped, tense and haughty
shameless, how dare you?
alone, alone
lush, ripe, wanton

shameless, how dare you?
hungry for life and love
lush, ripe, wanton
abandoned in lover’s arms

hungry for life and love
private hidden world, place apart
abandoned in lover’s arms
shut me out, shut me out

 

The Campbell River in Fall

salmon find their way home
hide in the shallows, rivers running drier every year
voracious bears line the banks
eagles, sharp-eyed, wait to pounce

hide in the shallows, rivers running drier every year
delicate dance of fly rod sparkling in the sun
eagles, sharp-eyed, wait to pounce
early morning mist hovers below the bridge

delicate dance of fly rod sparkling in the sun
high on the cliffs, splotches of gold
early morning mist hovers below the bridge
leaves turn, season changes

high on the cliffs, splotches of gold
grab the last blackberries
leaves turn, season changes
fingers stained red

grab the last blackberries
voracious bears line the banks
fingers stained red
salmon find their way home

How Did It Go?

The first poem, Quai d’Orfèvres, was written in 2009 in a poetry workshop with Wendy Morton, founder of what is now Planet Earth Poetry in Victoria BC. I was inspired by the above mentioned photo and jotted ten lines that were then arranged in the pantoum form.
The second poem is a visual pantoum inspired by the Campbell River, a heritage river made famous by Roderick Haig-Brown’s books.

-Janis La Couvée (she/her)

Deep in the shadows, a red vixen is killing,
food for her cub: a magpie
and look, the red blood spilling
and feathers scattered, black and white.

Food for her cub, a magpie,
head lolling, held in strong, red jaws
and feathers scattered, black and white:
sunlight and shadows on the forest floor.
Head lolling, held in strong, red jaws,
with one wing trailing, feathers splayed out wide,
sunlight and shadows on the forest floor,
catching the blue flare that the magpie hides
With one wing trailing, feathers splayed out wide,
and look, the red blood spilling,
catching the blue flare that the magpie hides
deep in the shadows. A red vixen is killing.

How Did It Go?

I’ve written pantoums before, so I’m quite comfortable with the form. I’ve never written one I’m 100% happy with, though. It’s very hard – I find it hard – to give them a natural flow. I think leaving verbs vague, with an open subject, is helpful. I got the basics here and then fiddled to get the grammar working smoothly. Some forms become purely an exercise in form for me, but I find a pantoum can hold meaning and substance. 

-Sarah Connor

Cleaning the moss from the roof tiles

When you scraped the roof,
small mossy heaps
of dry grey ghosts
lay scattered around the house

Small mossy heaps,
once green hedgehogs, roof-rootling,
lay scattered around the house
amid more drought debris.

Once green hedgehogs, roof-rootling
Beneath a brazen sky,
amid more drought debris,
await the cooling of the year.

Beneath a brazen sky,
we gather up cool shadows,
await the cooling of the year,
greening with the touch of autumn.

We gather up cool shadows
of dry grey ghosts,
greening with the touch of autumn,
from when you scraped the roof.

 

How Did It Go?

I hadn’t written a pantoum in quite a while, and I didn’t remember it being so difficult. I used to make them rhyme, wrote them in a regular iambic meter. I didn’t manage it this time and settled for a free verse style. It makes it clearer, I hope, what I’m on about, because I learned from posting a poem on the same subject, that it is not a truth, universally acknowledged, that the lumps of moss that grow on roof tiles look like hedgehogs. You’ll have to take my word for it. They do.

-Jane Dougherty

Bios And Links

-Jessica Whipple

is a writer for adults and children. Her poetry has been published by One Art, Nurture, Ekstasis, Rathalla Review, Stanchion, Reformed Journal, and Green Ink Poetry, with work forthcoming in Pine Hills Review. Her debut picture book titled ENOUGH IS… will be published spring 2023 by Tilbury House, and another titled I THINK I THINK A LOT by Free Spirit Publishing is forthcoming that same fall. Jessica has always enjoyed writing and reading poetry. To see more of her work, visit www.AuthorJessicaWhipple.com or follow her on Twitter @JessicaWhippl17.

Alice Stainer

teaches English Literature and Creative Writing on a visiting student programme in Oxford. Her work particularly explores place, ecology, and human relationships through nature and art, and appears in Green Ink Poetry, 192 Magazine, Atrium, The Dawntreader, Feral Poetry, and The Storms, amongst other places. She is nervously putting together her first pamphlet and tweets poetically @AliceStainer.

-Janis La Couvée (she/her)
is a writer and poet with a love of wild green spaces. She resides in Campbell River, Vancouver Island, British Columbia on the territory of the Wei Wai Kum, We Wai Kai and Kwiakah First Nations and is dedicated to conservation efforts and exploring the great outdoors. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Island Writer, Paddler Press, Humana Obscura, Van Isle Poetry Collective, pocket lint and WordSpring Society of the Arts. Find her at: janislacouvee.com Twitter: @lacouvee Facebook: JanisLaCouveeOnline

2 thoughts on “TheWombwellRainbow #PoeticFormChallenge #PANTOUM was last week’s chosen form. Robert Frede Kenter, Alice Stainer, Tim Fellows, Jane Dougherty, Spriha Kant, Samantha Terrell and myself

  1. Pingback: Pantoum and witchcraft – Jane Dougherty Writes

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