Passing Pantoums

Call for collaborators

“Men o’ War Passing on the Open Sea” by Michael Zeno Diemer (public domain)

The Project in Pantoum

(Plain English Below)

Finding pantoums on Medium
Is swimming in the sea
Searching for ships — it’s tedium.
You’ve never tried? Go see!

If swimming in the sea
Is fun, writing pantoums is more.
You’ve never tried? Go see!
In fact, it’s what this project’s for.

It’s fun! Writing pantoums is more
Straightforward than you think.
In fact, it’s what this project’s for:
To help you spill that ink.

Straight forward, then: you think
It’s hard? Just use these pantoum rules
To help you spill that ink.
We promise, this will be so cool!

Each quatrain’s second and fourth lines
Repeat within the next
As first and third, in lovely twine.
It’s really not complex.
Repeat within the next
The stanzas’ pattern told above.
It’s really not complex
But, careful, for you’ll fall in love!
The stanzas’ pattern told above
Continues ‘till the end;
But careful ‘fore you fall in, love,
There’s one more rule to tend.
“Continues ‘till the end,”
Is true, except the final verse — 
There, one more rule to tend:
Its second and fourth lines rehearse;
It’s true — accept! — the final verse
Must reach way back, reversed:
It’s second and fourth lines rehearse
First stanza’s third, then first.
Yes, reach way back, re-verse
the first and third in lovely twine:
First stanza’s third then first,
This quatrain’s second and fourth lines.

“It’s hard?” Just use these pantoum rules!
But take two lines, one pair…
(We promise this will be so cool,
This is our Chalkboard dare.)

But take two lines (one pair)
From someone’s Medium pantoum.

This is our Chalkboard dare:
A borrowed thread inside the loom

From someone’s Medium pantoum.
There! Soon, when done, you’ll see:
A bar owed threatens, aye, to loom
No more, for we’ll all be

There soon; When done, we’ll see:
Searching for ships is tedium
No more, for we’ll all be
Finding pantoums on Medium.

The Project in Plain English

The goal of this project is to borrow a pair of lines from someone else’s pantoum and use them in your own pantoum. Due to the nature of pantoums (see below), you’ll use the borrowed lines twice: like two ships passing on the sea, saying hello then goodbye.

What’s a Pantoum?

A Pantoum is a Malaysian poetry form consisting of any number of quatrains. The rules are simple:

  1. The second and fourth lines of each stanza must repeat as the first and third lines, respectively, of the following stanza.
  2. The final stanza has one additional requirement: its second line must repeat the first stanza’s third line, and its fourth line must repeat the first stanza’s first line (so that the first and last lines of the poem match).

How to Play

  1. Find any pantoum published on Medium. There aren’t many, but to help you out, I have scoured Medium and linked to them below for your pantoum perusing pleasure. If you find one I missed (or write one!), let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the list. Once this project gets going, you’ll have more fresh pantoums to inspire you.
  2. From your chosen poem, select a pair of lines to borrow for your pantoum. The paired lines should be separated by exactly one other line — for example, a stanza’s first and third lines (although if you really want to do something different, like borrow adjacent lines, we’ll allow it ;).
  3. Write your pantoum. Tamyka Bell made a handy color-coded template you can use if you like. The borrowed pair of lines should appear twice — first as any stanza’s second and fourth lines, then as the following stanza’s first and third lines. (Or, in the special case that you use the borrowed pair as your first stanza’s first and third lines, the pair would repeat as your final stanza’s fourth and second lines, respectively.) Tip: Tamyka and I found it easier to “start in the middle” by crafting the stanza with the borrowed lines first, then letting the pantoum grow forward or backward from there.
  4. Format your Medium story for submission. Starting at the top:
    - give it a title
    - subtitle it pantoum after [@original poet]
    - add an image
    - give the image an appropriate attribution with a link to a webpage clearly showing the image licence information, like our example in this post
    - single-space your poem (shift-Enter) within each stanza, and use a paragraph break between stanzas
    - add a section break, then this footer — This poem is part of the Passing Pantoums project on Chalkboard. I borrowed a pair of lines from this pantoum:
    [embed URL]

    - add tags, including Pantoum and Passing Pantoums
  5. Submit your pantoum to Chalkboard as a draft.
  6. Find another poem to work with!

A Pile of Pantoum Potential

Here are two example poems to kick off the project, followed by a list of pantoums on Medium (not including the ones in this project). Find a pair of lines from one of these (or part of the pantoum sandwich above) and let your creativity set sail!

Published pantoums (rhymed):

Published pantoums (unrhymed):

See you out there on the stanzaic seas!


Update: This project is now closed. You can see the project summary here: