Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday Poetry Forms (Poetry for Dummies) Week 24

Another week starts here at the Gooseberry Garden and I am CC Champagne, here to delve deeper into the murky waters of poetry forms with you.
A few months ago I caught a pretty bad cold with a fever and all the dizziness that comes with it. I was stuck at home, restless, having nothing to do, and stumbled on this post over at d'Verse Poets Pub for their Form For All about a poetry form called Pantoum. Before this day I had always claimed that there was no point in me trying my hand at formalised poetry, but in my mentally weakened state I decided to actually try to figure out what on earth it was all about, starting with the brilliant information provided by Gay Reiser Cannon in that first post.

The Pantoum derives from the Malay poetry form Pantun and its longer form of intervowen quatrains called the Pantun Berkait. From what I gather this form has developed in translation to the English language and made popular in the early 1800's by, among others, Victor Hugo and Baudelaire. I will not claim to completely understand this poetry form, but since it was my first ever attempt at proper formalised poetry and I found it truly inspiring, I wanted to share it with you. It is also interesting since it shows that new poetry forms are born out of old ones and then, with time, become old ones themselves. We should not be afraid to try, as our mistakes may be tomorrows' new poetry forms!

A Pantoum is
  • based on quatrains (stanzas or paragraphs of four lines each)
  • can be any number of stanzas, but always ends with the first and last line of the poem.
  • Plays with repetition of lines in a set pattern.
  • ABAB is the preferred rhyme scheme (first line rhymes with the third line, second line rhymes with the fourth line), but ABBA can also be used.
The scheme in which the lines are repeated looks like this:


1. (A)
2. B
3. A (or B)
4. B (or A)

2. B
5. A
4. B (or A)
6. A (or B)

5. A
7. B
6. A (or B)
8. B (or A)

7. B
9. A
8. B (or A)
10. A (or B)

9. A
3. B
10. A (or B)
1. B (or A)

I am sure some of you are probably wondering what on earth I am on about now, so to illustrate I thought I'd give a few examples, starting with Baudelaire's Harmonie du Soir (the apparent starting point for this madness) in translation by William Aggeler:

Evening Harmony
The season is at hand when swaying on its stem
Every flower exhales perfume like a censer;
Sounds and perfumes turn in the evening air;
Melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!
Every flower exhales perfume like a censer;
The violin quivers like a tormented heart;
Melancholy waltz and languid vertigo!
The sky is sad and beautiful like an immense altar.
The violin quivers like a tormented heart,
A tender heart, that hates the vast, black void!
The sky is sad and beautiful like an immense altar;
The sun has drowned in his blood which congeals...
A tender heart that hates the vast, black void
Gathers up every shred of the luminous past!
The sun has drowned in his blood which congeals...
Your memory in me glitters like a monstrance!
— William Aggeler, The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Another example, which is not really very Swedish of me to do (but I hope you will forgive my apparent pride), is my own first ever attempt at this form, 'When Mother Earth Shakes':

When Mother Earth Shakes
When Mother Earth in anger shakes,
no man withstands his human fate.
To her succumbs both love and hate!
How can she forgive us more mistakes?

No man withstands his human fate!
No matter what predictions man makes.
How can she forgive us more mistakes?
When faced with all our human hate?

No matter what predictions man makes,
her righteous anger we cannot sate!
When faced with all our human hate,
she rises up for all our sakes!

Her righteous anger we cannot sate!
She knows man’s care for her he fakes!
She rises up for all our sakes,
reminding us our world can’t wait!

She knows man’s care for her he fakes!
To her succumbs both love and hate,
reminding us our world can’t wait
When Mother Earth in anger shakes!
In any case I hope this has inspired you to have a go at this multifaceted form, where you will find that the challenge isn't only to repeat the lines correctly, but also to - somehow - drive the poem forward within the strict confines of the rules it is based on.

If you do feel like sharing a Pantoum with us here at the Gooseberry Garden, or any other poetry you have written, please join us at the Poetry Picnic Week 23, where the topic is New York Times' Headlines. A fantastic idea to keep us poets current and not just veer off into the poetic dreamland we sometimes inhabit. Another suggestion might be to join in the Thursday Poets Rally Week 61, where the engines have just started for this week. I hope to be seeing you back here next week, for more mind-crunching poetry forms.

*Cheers*

2 comments:

Taylor Boomer said...

thoughtful poetry form,

hard one, may try my hand on it.

:)

Raivenne said...

It is a hard form, but so fulfilling once you get it down.

http://wp.me/sPury-awaken