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Playing with a pantoum

Sunday 28 September 2008

FIVE  And now’s the time to turn to a clean page and actually get some verses down onto it. Concentrate. Be conscious all the time of where you are in the sequence of ideas you’re presenting.

Some line-pairs won’t work at all when slotted into the following stanza; some will arise in a later stanza and then not fit into the one before. Some may have to be completely changed or discarded when they see what lines you’re trying to make them sit next to. On the other hand, some will spring at you from nowhere as the thing gains solidity. That’s the joy of it.

SIX  Bear in mind the meter but don’t worry if some lines don’t quite fit it – at this stage.

SEVEN  When you have the right number of lines, possibly minus one or two that won’t ‘come’ for the moment, in the right order or nearly so – sit back, congratulate yourself and take a breather.

If you get in a total tangle before reaching this happy midway stage – sit back, congratulate yourself on putting in all this effort, and take a breather. Come back when your courage is revived and attack with a fresh mind.

EIGHT  The next part is just like writing any other poem. You have the raw material now, so it’s time to rest your right brain and call on your left brain, the thinking, logical side. Time to knead and tweak. Be brutal.

  • Read the poem aloud and root out any spots where the meter is less than perfect.
  • Check the form is perfect – every line in its correct place.
  • Reject any half rhymes, unless you’ve decided to go with them throughout.
  • Bully the whole thing into consistency.
  • Read aloud again, thinking about the emotional journey the poem leads us on. Be aware of nudging the reader’s reactions one way and another.

NINE  Finally: the title. Sleep on it; it’s one of the most important bits.


And after all that i hope you’ll glance at my own newborn pantoum, and give me some feedback – which is even more needed for this than for most things you’ll see on this blog, as this is a ‘raw’, unfinished piece of work. But enough warnings! Enjoy!


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