Carolyn Kizer's "Parent's Pantoum," the first three stanzas of which are reprinted here, is a fine example of the pantoum: Where did these big children, more ladylike than we have ever been, come from? Some of us appear to be older than we are. Some of us appear to be younger than we are. But all of us seem to want to play football.
It's hard to believe that only thirty years ago, this kind of poetry was popular. Today it is seen as old-fashioned and out of touch with modern life. But at its best, pantoum can be joyous and entertaining, and it doesn't hurt that most people haven't heard of it either.
The pantoum was popular among poets in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It tends to use many metaphors and similes compared to other poetic forms, and it often comments on daily life. The form originated in Greek military camps where soldiers composed poems while waiting for orders. These poems were called pantouna (all poems) because they were always written on spiaggia (sand).
Pantoum is a Malaysian literary genre that is written in both French and English. The pantoum is made up of a sequence of quatrains that rhyme abab, with the second and fourth lines of one quatrain reoccurring as the first and third lines of the next; each quatrain introduces a new second rhyme (as bcbc, cdcd). A pantoum can have any number of quatrains, but most have four.
The term "pantoum" comes from the Arabic word for four, used here to refer to the form's four-line stanzas.
Abab rhymes are based on consonance rather than sound patterns. That is, two words that start with the same letter but end with different letters will often still be able to be matched up with each other when read aloud. For example, "ball" and "salal" can both be read as /bəl/ or /sələl/, and both fit the abab pattern.
The pantoum is a Malay literary style in which poets construct quatrains (4-line stanzas) using an abab rhyme scheme and repeat lines 2 and 4 from the previous stanza as lines 1 and 3 from the following stanza.
A pantoum's interlocking structure of rhyme and repetition creates an incantation; as words ricochet across stanzas, they fill the poem with echoes. This relentless repetition also slows down the poetry, stopping its progression.
The pantoum developed in Malaysia in the fourteenth century as a short folk lyric composed of two rhyming couplets performed or sung. The term "pantoum" comes from the Malay word for "who knows?"
Its origins can be found in Arabic poetry, where it was known as al-batin. This form of poetry consisted of three stanzas of four lines each. The final line of each stanza would be the same to create a sense of balance and harmony.
In Europe, poets such as John Donne and George Herbert adapted the pantoum form into their poems. In the United States, Charles Olson wrote several poems in this style.
The modern pantoum was coined by Syed Hussein Al-Husaini in his 1939 book Eminent Indian Poets. He introduced this form as "a new poetic exercise which has attracted many poets in India."
Since then, the pantoum has become popular among Indian poets. For example, Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the first prime ministers of independent India, wrote several poems in this style.
Today, the pantoum is still used by some Indian poets because of its simplicity and ease of composition.
What Is the Pantoum Structure? Each quatrain of a pantoum has eight to twelve syllable lines that follow an ABAB rhyme pattern. The second and fourth lines of the first stanza are rewritten as the first and third lines of the second stanza. This continues throughout the poem, with each new stanza beginning with an A line from one side of the original division and ending with a B line from the other side.
Why Do Some Poems Have Two Names? This is especially common with poems that have been copied or printed many times - they often become known by different titles which may not always be apparent from reading them alone. For example, while "The Lady of Shalott" is about a young woman who is obsessed with her image in a mirror, it is usually called a "Pantoum". "The Lady of Shalott" was inspired by the legend of Elaine de Sade, but this story has no connection with any pantoum I know!
Sometimes one name is given to a poem because it fits easily into a sequence or list, like "Lady of Shalott", "Ave Maria", or "St Francis Prayer". Other times there is no clear reason for having two names; we just like the way it sounds when applied to these poems.
Plenty is a lyrical poem that concentrates on the speaker's former family household while she luxuriates in the present, remembering about childhood events as her mother sought to keep a tight grip on everything. These memories are often associated with food; therefore, "plenty" means "much food".
The speaker often complains about how adults tend to forget what it was like to be a child. She expresses her feelings about this subject through metaphor and simile as well as by describing actual events from her past. For example, she says: "Oh, mother! You always seek after / more than we can give, yet there's nothing you would / not eat if you were starving." (I.30-32). This passage shows that even though her mother works very hard for their family, she still feels like she doesn't have enough.
Another example is when she compares herself to some fruit that is ripe but not overripe: "Like one of those fruits, I'm ready for harvest / But my tree cannot bear too much fruit, or else it will drop its leaves." (II.31-32). In this case, the speaker is saying that just like certain fruits can only produce so many seeds before they die, she too can only experience so much happiness and joy before she needs to rest.