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Poetry Competitions UK
14 Jun 2011

How to Write a Pantoum

The pantoum is renowned as one of the classic forms of poetry. Despite its somewhat strict structure, the pantoum is still a versatile poetic form. Written in four line stanzas called quatrains, pantoums can be written in free verse, metered or rhyme. Originally a Malayan form, the structure of a pantoum is that it is written in couplets, repeating lines in an interlocking pattern. Although due to this nature there is no length restriction to a pantoum, they are generally kept within a few verses, as any longer than this would put stress on the poet's ingenuity and the readers' patience. It is more vital to have a strong opening line in a pantoum than with any other poetic form, as without this, the rest of the poem loses its meaning and sense. Below shows the pantoum's repeating format, and an example of how these work in together. In the example, the letters A, B, C etc refer to whole repeated lines, not just rhyming lines.

a   First Line                  As she dances on the moonlit glen
b   Second Line            Taking in the freshness of the air
c   Third Line                 She is alone, but not lonely
d   Fourth Line              She is surrounded by spirits
b   Second Line            Taking in the freshness of the air
e   Fifth Line                  Searching again for her silent companions
d   Fourth Line              She is surrounded by spirits
f    Sixth Line                 They watch the contentment she holds
e   Fifth Line                  Searching again for her silent companions
c   Third Line                 She is alone, but not lonely
f   Sixth Line                   They watch the contentment she holds
a  First Line                   As she dances on the moonlit glen.


You may need to write out your basic form and then re-read it and change the odd word, but stick to the guidelines, you can't go wrong! Once you've written your poem, why not send it to us - Forward Poetry, Remus House, Coltsfoot Drive, Peterborough PE2 9BF. Alternatively, you can upload your poem or email it to inbox@forwardpoetry.co.uk.


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