Like a Soldier: A Contemporary Pantoum Poem

Introduction

The following poem is a pantoum. This form of poetry is very structured and unique. The first line of the poem is also the last. The third line is the second-to-last. You will notice that many of the lines are repeated with different punctuation. The second and fourth lines of one stanza become the first and third lines of the next.

This is a pantoum I wrote years ago when I was first getting into poetry and learning how to write with structured forms. I always liked more structure rather than free-verse because I have to force myself to create something beautiful out of something with such authority.

This poem is about breaking away from the norm--or from something that seemed to be so solid at first--and breaking through to pure confidence in change. The re-contextualization of the lines in this poem symbolize the reconstruction of the narrator's life.

I hope that people enjoy this poem as a narrative about unexpected change and new-found confidence. We all have some fear of change and I wanted to show that although we feel like our lives are supposed to follow a structure, they sometimes do not.

Source

Like a Soldier

“Don’t make me do this,” I said

And turned toward the door.

He stood tall, like a soldier.

So I left,


And turned toward the door,

Realizing he was wrong.

So, I left

To find comfort with friends.


Realizing he was wrong—

It was the first step

To find comfort. With friends,

I poured my heart on the table.


It was the first step

That was the hardest.

I poured my heart on the table.

Now what am I?


That? Was the hardest

Part of leaving him being alone?

Now what am I

a


Part of? Leaving him, being alone,

Now, it’s just me.

Singular.

And I walk back to the home


Now. “It’s just me,”

I said and

He stood tall, like a soldier.

“Don’t make me do this,” I said.

Conclusion

A pantoum is unique because of it's structure. I suggest you attempt to write your own pantoum if you ever have writer's block. Writing a pantoum can be a great exercise for struggling writers attempting to create something out of recycled lines. I find that this structure, although it has no rhyming or syllable restrictions, has a form that many will find fun and enjoyable to write.

This poem in particular uses punctuation to change the context of each repeated line. As this woman attempts to leave the comfortable structure in her life, it seems the only thing keeping her moving is the love of others and the ability to have repetition and stability in her life. I hope you like what I have done here and I appreciate any comments, questions or critiques that you may like to share in the comments section. Aloha and Mahalo.

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Comments 17 comments

mjfarns profile image

mjfarns 5 years ago from Bloomington, Illinois USA

Wow, I haven't encountered a pantoum since grad school. I think it's so very difficult to make this ancient form feel contemporary, and you've pulled it off! Nice job!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you so much! I feel strange posting my work online, but I couldn't resist entering the contest. Thanks again.


mjfarns profile image

mjfarns 5 years ago from Bloomington, Illinois USA

I know what you mean! But there's no risk in entering, so why not? That's becoming less and less the case with writing contests. Most charge a "reading fee", like $20. Whatever!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Totally! I feel the same way. I only joined HP a week ago and I am so happy to be part of a (generally) positive writing community. It's so great that they don't charge for the contest; I just don't know how they are going to read all of these entries.


emichael profile image

emichael 5 years ago from New Orleans

Very interesting. I'm not much of a poet myself, but this is intriguing. I may have to try it. I enjoy a good challenge.

Well written, I enjoyed this one. Good luck in the contest :)


mjfarns profile image

mjfarns 5 years ago from Bloomington, Illinois USA

I know what you mean, brittany! I used to work as an associate editor of a literary magazine and the sheer volume of work I had to go through was overwhelming. I entered a fiction piece that's really long (just north of 9,000 words). I wanted to break it up into smaller chunks but I learned from the official in charge that would lessen my chances of winning "the big prize." If you're gonna go, go big I say!


Derdriu 5 years ago

BrittanyTodd: What an evocative and provocative organization to a compelling poem which deals with structuring and de-structuring!

Thank you for the creativity, voted up, etc.,

Derdriu


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you, emichael. You should definitely attempt it!


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Mark, yes. Go big or go home! You may have seen my recent series "The Hawthorne Inn." We'll see what happens.


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Derdrie, Thank you for your kind comment and votes!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Triple Wow! I have forgotten about this style of poetry. It was introduced in H.S. and that was eons ago, LOL

Your example was superb. I am mesmorized by it and bookmarked it for a second, (third? fourth?) read. I can't say enough positive things about it-I loved it. Glad to know you sent this off to the Patron of the Arts contest this month? Voted up and all the way across.


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Oh, Denise. Thank you so much! Yes, it is entered in the contest, but since I break the form a little at the end, I don't know if it has a good chance. I love pantoums; they are great for curing writer's block. Again, thank you so much.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

I'm so intrigued by this...and, I suppose I am a bit like what you suggested in your explanation, attracted to the challenge of the structure.

I'm going to have to give this a try at some point. I am so amazed at your example here. I'm happy that you've shared it with such a great explanation.


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Send me a link if you do make one. I would love to read it and add the link to this page for another example. Thank you again.


cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 5 years ago from Cebu

Very nicely poem. I love every bit of it. I like your style. My still is old school and mostly chatter to fantasy/children theme. :D


brittanytodd profile image

brittanytodd 5 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Author

Thank you. I'll have to take a look at your stuff.


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 4 years ago from Tucson, Az.

I'm going to try this. Most of my songs and poems are the old "roses are red, violets are blue" stuff. It's time for me to learn something about this after 30 years of doing it. lol thank you!

~ jim

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