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Types of Poem Forms - French Pantoum Poems

Updated on February 12, 2012

I like to think of the French Pantoum form of poetry as a dance, one step forward, and two steps back, a slow waltz of sorts type of poem, especially for the author of the poem when it comes to writing one. Now, the idea for this French poetry form didn’t originate in France, but was an adaptation in the 19th century by French poets of an old Malay song form, so you could actually call it a Malay-French poem form turned English if you so wanted.

Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir Source: This image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. Reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons.
Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir Source: This image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. Reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project via Wikimedia Commons.

Rules For Writing A Pantoum Poem

All of the stanzas are written in four lines, with the second and fourth lines of each stanza becoming first and third lines of the next stanza. By the time the poet comes to the last stanza, the second and fourth lines are the third and first lines of each stanza, making the beginning and the end identical in the pantoum. Other rules are:

  • The French Pantoum has no limit on the number of quatrains.
  • The French Pantoum has lines of no fixed rule in terms of length which is solely a decision left up to the poet.
  • The French Pantoum’s key appeal is that it says everything twice, and the repetition is quite in harmony in terms of how the poem flows.

Repetition In Pantoum Poems

The pantoum poem is really all about “repetition,” but not in a boring or laborious way, but more in format that evokes a caring and mellower time in the distant past. In case you are wondering what the difference is between the French Pantoum form of poetry and its predecessor the Malayan pantun, the differences are subtle. They both follow the same rhyme and line scheme. However, the Malayan pantun was more rigidly traditional in theme and imagery and both may not be obvious to the English speaking reader or listener.

The Malayan pantun has been key to teaching and passing on values to the next generations, particularly when it comes to understanding and symbolizing nature. Along with Malayan pantuns about religion, cultural and social values, it is a gift from the past that hopefully will revitalize one culture's poetic form of lullaby that is currently on the endangered list when it comes to writing poetry.

Now, you would think that the repetition would make writing of the pantoum poems difficult, but I find that such devices actually make the poem flow quickly once you form a theme. Inspiration can be found all around us, even in the daily news. Here's my pantoum poem, drawing from current events and the seed the Malayan pantum gave pantoum poems in passing on cultural and social values of the times:


Homeless Veteran on the streets of Boston - Source: Matthew Woitunski via Wikimedia Commons
Homeless Veteran on the streets of Boston - Source: Matthew Woitunski via Wikimedia Commons

Pantoum of the Occupy Wall Street Protests

When we the middle class became one of the poor

The land of the free stopped being the land of the blind

Handmade signs and people across the nation

Chanting and shouting I am one of the ninety-nine.


The land of the free stopped being land of the blind

When fifteen hundred were applying for job openings for five

Chanting and shouting I am one of the ninety-nine

Bail out the people not the banks.


When fifteen hundred were applying for job openings for five

No longer suffering in silence about it

Bail out the people not the banks

Losing our homes and our jobs and way of life.


No longer suffering in silence about it

Capitalism used to be a proud eagle

Losing our homes and our jobs and way of life

Morphing the eagle into a vulture.


Capitalism used to be a proud eagle

Blood, sweat, and tears in the land of the once free

Morphing the eagle into a vulture

The cost of living devouring our shrunken dollar.


Blood, sweat, and tears in the land of the once free

Homeless Veterans begging on street corners

The cost of living devouring our dollar

No one knows when the end of this will be.


Homeless Veterans begging on street corners

Food pantries with empty shelves

No one know when the end of this will be

Some are crying the cost of living is killing me.


Food pantries with empty shelves

Kitchen cupboards at the end of the month bare

Some are crying the cost of living is killing me

While others are dying for lack of health care.


Kitchen cupboards at the end of the month bare

Evictions and foreclosures just about everywhere

While others are dying for lack of health care

The rich and the politicians go their way without a care.


Evictions and foreclosures just about everywhere

The land of the free stopped being the land of the blind

The rich and the politicians go their way without a care

When we the middle class became one of the poor.

Jerilee Wei © 2001

Examples Of Well-known Pantoum Poems

There are numerous examples of pantoum poems in print. Some of the better known examples are:

  • John Ashberry's "Pantoum"
  • Carolyn Kizer's "Parents' Pantoum"
  • Donald Justice's "Pantoum of the Great Depression"
  • Brander Matthews' "En Route"
  • Nellie Wong's "Grandmother's Song"


Comments

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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      6 years ago from United States

      Thanks shea duane! I am amazed at some of the raw talent among the poets here.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 

      6 years ago from new jersey

      Wonderful hub! I hope every poet on hubpages reads this. Many of our young poets are very talented, but lack exposure to form. Great job Jerilee!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks Deborah Brooks!

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this was so interesting... Bravo.. I voted up and awesome..

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks Ginn Navarre! They certainly don't care and probably never did.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 

      7 years ago

      Life is a dance of poetry in many ways. In todays world we are dancing to the greed of those politicians that don't care.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks penelopae! A lot of things, including writing poetry are simply wonderful dances.

    • penelopae profile image

      Becky Muth 

      7 years ago from Harpers Ferry, WV

      I love how you compared this form of poetry to a dance, especially a waltz. Keep up the great writing!

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks tammyswallow! Certainly these are troubling times.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I agree with Saddleriders comments. Very appropriate and sad regarding the times we are in.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks saddlerider1! I am honored that you liked it so much. Poetry has always been one of the secret weapons in any unrest that outlasted many other forms of expression.

      Thanks barryrutherford!

      Thanks akune! I hope I have been inspiring in encouraging others to try new poem forms (or at least new to them).

    • akune profile image

      akune 

      7 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      O my word. A snapshot in history taken by this poem. Moving. The form is interesting. I learned something from this hub but I will not be shallow and try it out without soaking it in much more. Until then, akune remains herself!

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great Reading Thanks!

    • saddlerider1 profile image

      saddlerider1 

      7 years ago

      This is a classical beautiful method of rhyme. I was moved, I was frozen, I was mesmerized. I was enchanted, but most of all I was sad. I was mad, for the cads who rule over the middle class. We have to stop this insanity, the INSIDE JOB.

      The spending, the profiteering, the cons,the luxury the greed, the money mongers who are destroying our way of life. The vulture is having it's way, the Eagle sits and wonders why, misplaced now. Revolution at hand, we must stop the bleeding.

      Unless the government is set right, America is lost. I loved this work, you are a marvelous writer/poet. Rated Up as far as Hub Pages Up will allow.

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