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Playing with a pantoum

Sunday 28 September 2008
THE TRAVEL HOPEFULLY METHOD FOR WRITING A PANTOUM

ONE  Think about your subject and key words to go with it, picking rhymes.

TWO  You may start with more words than you will be able to use; i had lists of several words for some rhymes: for example, end, mend, friend, send. That’s good, it means you’re working in an atmosphere of plenty. Put another way, it’s better to be shedding rhymes that turn out not to be needed than to be struggling for a rhyme once you’ve moved from this fairly emotionless stage to the more intuitive, right-brain stage of putting what you want to say into words.

THREE  It’s also good if you have more rhyme sets than you’re going to need. You have to have one rhyme-sound for each stanza, but if you have more to begin with, you have scope to kill off points you simply can’t get into the right words at the right point in the poem. For example, i expected to use -ope: cope, mope, hope. But when it came to it, the sounds and the ideas just didn’t work with the rest of it, so that ending isn’t in the finished piece. (OK, not finished exactly – you needn’t remind me more work is needed on this one!)

FOUR  Put your rhyme pairs/groups into roughly the order they will appear. How? Think about the progression of the thought the poem is to express. The crux may come about halfway or a little after halfway; something will have to be the opening idea, and something needs to form a conclusion. Even though the pantoum bends back round on itself, it is stronger if the idea in it progresses so that by the end we feel we have reached some destination, or you could find you’ve created an unsatisfying poem (one that fails what a friend of mine calls the So What? test).

Click through for the remaining five steps

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