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The Pantoum - a Poetry Friday post

Today, I want to talk about a particular form of poetry called the pantoum. The pantoum is an evocative form that originates in Malaysia. It involves a lot of repetition, since each line will repeat once in the poem. A pantoum can have as many stanzas as one likes. Each stanza holds four lines. Lines two and four of stanza one become lines one and three of stanza two, lines two and four of stanza two become lines one and three of stanza three, and so on, until the final stanza, in which line three of the first stanza of the poem is line two of that final stanza, and line one of the poem is the fourth line, and therefore the final line of the poem.

It can sound a bit complicated, but it's exceedingly simple when seen in practice. And today, I'm bringing you a marvelous pantoum by a poet named Peter Oresick (pronounced o-RES-ick), who kindly granted me permission to share his poem with you. The poem comes from a collection by Oresick published earlier this month by Carnegie Mellon University Press called Warhol-o-rama.

Andy Warhol for Familiar Quotations

by Peter Oresick

Andy Warhol said, Always leave them wanting less.
Being born, Warhol said, is like being kidnapped.
Everyone will be famous, Andy said, for 15 minutes.
I thought everyone was just kidding,
said Andy.

Being born, Andy Warhol said, is like being kidnapped.
Think rich,
said Warhol, look poor.
I thought everyone was just kidding,
said Andy.
Dying, Andy said, is the most embarrassing thing.

Think rich,
said Andy Warhol, look poor.
I am a deeply superficial man,
said Warhol.
Dying, Andy said, is the most embarrassing thing.
Andy said, I'd like my tombstone to be blank.

I am a deeply superficial man,
said Andy Warhol.
Fashions fade, Warhol said, but style is eternal.
Andy said, I'd like my tombstone to be blank.
Isn't life,
said Andy, a series of images that repeat?

Fashions fade,
Andy Warhol said, but style is eternal.
Everyone will be famous,
Warhol said, for 15 minutes.
Isn't life,
said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Andy said, Always leave them wanting less.

Isn't life,
said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Isn't life,
said Andy, a series of images that repeat?


Now, those last two lines don't actually fall within the pantoum, but are there for closure and effect. But if you look at all the four-line stanzas, you'll see how the form works, and, I think be amused and prompted to think along the way. Oresick did a brilliant job of assembling some of Warhol's quotes in a way that not only showcases them, but also forms a sort of narrative. I was impressed when I read this one in the August 6th "issue" of The Writer's Almanac, and the more I read it, the more I love it.

I myself have written a killer pantoum (in that it is both good and involves vampires), but I'm afraid I'm not ready to share it with you still. Hope springs eternal that I will eventually find a market and sell it. In the meantime, you'll have to take my word for it.

Those of you looking for a new form to try might want to give the pantoum a go. It works well for meditative sorts of poems and, like the villanelle, it also works well for obsessive topics.

The Round Up is over at Kelly H's place, Big A little a.






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Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
saralholmes
Aug. 15th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC)
"Being born is like being kidnapped." I hadn't heard that one before.

As I began to read this, I wondered how the poet was going to pull this off, but you're right. It's brilliantly assembled, and funny, too.

And thanks, now you've got me thinking about vampire pantoums...I guess their life is full of repetitious, desperate habits of lurk, bite and feed?
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2008 11:23 am (UTC)
In the case of mine, it started out as a pantoum about the moon, and I was using end rhyme on my lines to help it cohere. The syllable count wasn't regulated, just the end of the lines (ABAB BCBC, etc.) The first line is "Come with me", so it was narrated like a tour of the night sky. It surprised me when that voice took over and turned out to be a vampire, and frankly, the poem gives me a chill when I read it aloud (and gets raves from audience members, too). So while there is no mention of lurking or biting or feeding, the line "it is time to kill" is in there.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2008 11:18 am (UTC)
TadMack says: :)
This makes me sort of shiver.

One hopes that life isn't really a series of images that repeat, but this poem aptly indulges the deep superficiality of some lives, and sort of tilts a mirror around to show an emptily narcissistic merry-go-round. Yikes. And well done.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2008 11:25 am (UTC)
Re: TadMack says: :)
In Warhol's case, life was decidedly images that repeat (imagine the Campbell's soup cans, or the pop art of Marilyn Monroe or Jacqueline Kennedy). I thought the poem was brilliantly done, and agree with you that the repetition of that particular line (twice within the pantoum, and twice again in the final couplet) skews the poem to a different place, which is one of the things that I particularly enjoyed about it.
(Deleted comment)
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2008 12:49 pm (UTC)
I like that Sting song too.
jenlibrarian
Aug. 15th, 2008 01:35 pm (UTC)
so cool!

kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2008 01:51 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you agree with me.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
Oh I hope to read yours one day!

Jules, 7-Imp
kellyrfineman
Aug. 15th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
It'd be great to get it published by someone other than me.
ext_77210
Aug. 15th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
Very impressive... To take such a strict form and use it for his own purposes, rather than letting the content be overwhelmed by the form.

"a killer pantoum (in that it is both good and involves vampires)" -- I love it! :-) I join the others in hoping to read it someday.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 16th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)
But if one is using a form properly, that should always be the case, no?

And thank you for the kind words. Here's hoping.
writerjenn
Aug. 15th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
Yay for pantoums! This is a form I love to play with.
kellyrfineman
Aug. 16th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Moi aussi.
jamarattigan
Aug. 15th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
Once again, I leave your blog a much smarter person than I was before. "A series of images that repeat" is SO Warhol on many levels. The whole thing about illusion, superficiality, etc., in a poem with lines that repeat. Brilliant!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 16th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Like you, I appreciate it when form meets function, and Oresick's poem is a fine case of that on several levels.
mlyearofreading
Aug. 16th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)
I don't know how I managed to miss this one in The Writer's Almanac! Must have been sleeping on August 6. Thanks for bring it back out and explaining the form. It's a BRILLIANT marriage of form and content!!! WOW!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 16th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC)
When I saw it on August 6th, I was wowed. It was one I couldn't delete from my inbox, so I contacted Peter Oresick and go permission to talk about it.
karen_edmisten
Aug. 16th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Great post on many levels -- not deeply superficial or superficially deep. :-) Thanks for educating me on a poetic form new to me!
kellyrfineman
Aug. 16th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
How much did you love that "deeply superficial" line? SO great, I thought.

The form is a lot of fun. I love learning new forms, too.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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