Posted tagged ‘pantoum’

dVerse Poets Pub Anniversary – Best Poem?

July 19, 2012

dVerse Poets Pub is celebrating its first anniversary this week and asks all participating poets (a group which includes lucky me) to link up what they feel was their best poem posted to dVerse over the past year.

Figuring out one’s best poem is always tricky.  I don’t know if this one is “best”, but it is a poem that is close to my heart.  It was written for a very good friend of mine, approximately two years ago, in the couple of weeks before her death from breast cancer.   She had expressed to me her concern for her children, and I wrote the poem based upon her words.

The poem is a pantoum – a form with repeating lines.  And punctuation (sigh) is a fairly important element.  I may not have punctuated right, so I recommend listening to the recording really more than reading.  It is a pretty simple poem to follow.

Thanks so much!  And thanks to dVerse Poets – Brian Miller and Claudia Schoenfeld, especially.

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The Last Thing – Mother to Child

The Last Thing –  Mother To Child

For Rhona Saffer
Know, that
when I must go,
I will love you
just the same.

When I must go,
I know it will not feel
just the same.
There will be cool air—

I know it will not feel
like my lips—
but there will be cool air
caressing your face

like my lips,
while your smile only,
caressing your face
(oh reflection of mine),

will be your smile only.
I never wanted to cause you pain,
oh reflection of mine.
That was the last thing

I ever wanted to cause you–pain.
No, I would love you—
that was the last thing.
Just the same,

know, I would love you,
will love you,
just the same.
Know that.

 

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“Know This” Poem for Mother’s Day For A Mother Taken Too Soon

May 13, 2012

Not a Mother, a Buddha, but Looks Motherly to Me

The Last Thing –  Mother To Child

For Rhona Saffer


Know that,
when I must go,
I will love you
just the same.

When I must go,
I know it will not feel
just the same.
There will be cool air—

I know it will not feel
like my lips—
but there will be cool air
caressing your face

like my lips,
while your smile only,
caressing your face
(oh reflection of mine),

will be your smile only.
I never wanted to cause you pain,
oh reflection of mine.
That was the last thing

I ever wanted to cause you–pain.
No, I would love you—
that was the last thing.
Just the same,

know, I would love you,
will love you,
just the same.
Know that.

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The above is a poem (posted before) for Mother’s Day, written for a dear friend of mine, who was a consummate mother.  The poem was written for her when, in the terminal stages of breast cancer, she told me that one of the most painful parts of her impending death was her concern for the suffering it would cause her wonderful children. I was able to read the poem to her before her death. 

The picture is of a Japanese Buddha not mother! at the Yale Art Museum.  Although buddhas are generally male, this one has a very maternal feel, I think.  I am also linking this post to Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads, a site for poetry and support for poets, focusing today on motherhood.   

Pantoum – Slow Waltz “Last Anniversary Party (During the Chemo)”

January 10, 2012

Silver Slipper

Due to the death of my beloved father last week, I’ve spent the last few days somewhat focused on loss.  Here is an older poem, a pantoum, that deals with the loss of a friend.  (I posted a very early draft of this poem some time ago.  I think this version is much improved.  I am linking it to dVerse Poets Pub open link night.)

I’m not sure the poem quite works, even improved.  However, the pantoum form, which is by its nature a bit of an unwieldy dance (with all the repeating lines) seems to suit the subject.   (As with all my poetry, pauses in reading should be taken based on punctuation, not line breaks.)

Last Anniversary Party (During the Chemo)

She walked that night on the side
edges of silver slippers,
her smile stretched movie-star wide
above feet the meds had blistered.

The edges of silver slippers,
gathering (elasticized)
around feet the meds had blistered,
wedged in a slow waltz that defined

our gathering.  Elasticized
sweetness stretched around the bitter
wedge that their slow waltz defined.
With her husband, her too, we fitted

into that sweetness (stretched around the bitter
to make it last), pain astride.
With her husband, her too, we fitted
loss with all that sparkled fine

to make it last.  Pain astride
a smile stretched movie-star wide
lost none of that sparkle fine.
She walked that night still on this side.

Magpie Tale (Pantoum)

November 6, 2011

20111106-010947.jpg

The drawing above is based on the prompt of Tess Kincaid at Magpie Tales, which was a photograph from a cemetery.  The photograph offered a lot of possibilities; my poem is a pantoum about a funeral, the differing feelings (from numbness to grief) that go through one’s brain at such an event.

What Funerals Are For

I worried that I might not be able to stop
the posturing that shaped my busy mind—
all I’d see, all whom I might know,
imagined encounters over funeral supper wine.

The posturing, the shape of busy mind,
dwarfed the Jesus-coated windows, babes in stone,
(imagined encounters over Last Supper wine)
when fingers touching lid, they led it down.

Dwarfing the Jesus-coated windows, babes in stone,
a block of wood, of over-polished grain,
as fingers touching lid, they led it down,
pulling with it, a winding sheet of weighty pain.

A block of wood, of over-polished grain—
I knew she couldn’t breathe there, that she’d no more breath
pulling within a winding sheet of weighty pain,
weeping without will, without relief.

I knew she couldn’t breathe there, that she’d no more breath,
and all I saw, all whom I might know,
weeping without will, without relief.
I worried that I might not be able to stop.

In Memoriam – Rhona Saffer

October 16, 2010

I went today to the memorial service for a dear friend who died this past summer of breast cancer.  All agreed that she was funny, bright, warm, brave, strong and beautiful.  But the theme that resonated most was her extraordinary kindness and care for others.  Because of this compassion, she sometimes “mothered” her many friends; but, of course, she was especially devoted to her own children.  (They, like her, are wonderful people.)

This is a poem (a pantoum) that I wrote for her, during her lifetime, after she told me how she feared and regretted the pain that her death would cause her children.  Although any mother could relate to such feelings, they seemed particularly emblematic of her courage and selflessness.

The Last Thing
For Rhona Saffer


Know that,
when I must go,
I will love you
just the same.

When I must go,
I know it will not feel
just the same.
There will be cool air—

I know it will not feel
like my lips—
but there will be cool air
caressing your face

like my lips,
while your smile only,
caressing your face
(oh reflection of mine),

will be your smile only.
I never wanted to cause you pain,
oh reflection of mine.
That was the last thing

I ever wanted to cause you. Pain.
No, I would love you—
that was the last thing.
Just the same,

know, I would love you,
I will love you,
just the same.
Know that.

She was a much loving, much loved, person;  she is sorely missed.

Second Day Of National Poetry Month – A Pantoum

April 2, 2010

Silver Slipper

Today, tried a pantoum.  The great thing about a pantoum (a form of repeating lines) is that you don’t need to come up with so many new lines.  ( For instructions on the form, check here.)

Remember, this is a draft a day!  A Draft!  (And the point is for you to try too.)

(Please note that in my poetry, pauses come only with punctuation–commas, or periods–and not at line breaks.)

Last Anniversary Party

She walked that night on the side
edges of silver slippers.
Her smile stretched movie-star wide
above sored feet that moved like flippers.

The edges of silver slippers,
gathering, elasticized
around sored feet that moved like flippers
as their slow, held, waltz defined

our gathering; elasticized
the sweet stretched around the bitter
that their slow, held, waltz defined.
We were her husband, her too, who fitted

that sweet, stretched around the bitter,
to make it last, while we each tried
to be her husband, her too, as they fitted
loss with all that sparkled fine

to make it last, while we  each tried
a smile stretched movie-star wide,
at loss, at all that sparkled fine.
She walked that night still on this side.

Pantoum – Hard hard hard: “Overheard on the Esplanade”

September 27, 2009

I’m tackling a different poetic form today – the pantoum.

Pantoums are sometimes compared to villanelles because they too involve repeating lines.  But pantoums are, to my mind, much harder to write.

As explained previously (see e.g. post comparing villanelles to banana pudding), writing a villanelle is largely a matter of assembly.   It takes preparation time, but once you get two reasonably resonant, flexible, lines (the ones that will be repeated), you can just kind of layer them.   (Like your pudding, your wafers, your bananas, your whipped cream.)

Writing a pantoum is more like setting up a house of cards–a house in which the same cards are used to build both the lower and higher levels.  (My attempts sometimes remind me of a clown stacking boxes to reach some high place; because of a shortage, the clown keeps putting the bottom boxes on top, until, slowly, she realizes she’s just not getting anywhere, at least anywhere transcendent.)

Pantoums also make me think of some Groucho Marx or Charlie Chaplin schtick in which the same coin or flower is recirculated (tied to his pocket etc.)   My brain here keeps picturing Roberto Benigni as waiter in Life is Beautiful, re-serving a light fish dish (abandoned by another customer) to the Nazi commandant with an ulcer by emphasizing the “fritti fritti fritti” quality of the mushroom omelette previously ordered by the commandant.   (Comparing a pantoum to recycled fish is probably not fair.)

The problem and also the magic of a pantoum is that all the lines are repeated.  The form is made up of quatrains.  Traditionally, it involves a rhyme sequence, though some writers dispense with rhyme.   Frankly, it is a type of poem in which “slant rhyme” or near rhyme works well to avoid a sing-songy quality.

It sounds more complicated than it is.   I’ve included a line-by-line breakdown, after my sample, below.

A note:  in reading, pay close attention to punctuation, which trumps line breaks.  (Meaning that pauses are only to be taken at commas, periods, dashes, etc. and not at line breaks unless punctuated.)  Sorry to sound churlish, but punctuation is particularly important in pantoums as it is one of the few tools for sculpting the repetitions.

(Sorry also for grim subject matter of poem.)

Heard on the Esplanade, a Pantoum

The woman cries
that she doesn’t believe it.
“Don’t tell me lies.”
She pulls away from him.

“That she doesn’t believe it—
Is that what you’re telling me?”
She pulls away from him
in the sun of the walkway.

“Is that what you’re telling me?”
Sky overbright on sleeves
in the sun of the walkway
twists the fall of fall leaves.

Sky overbright on sleeves
he holds onto.  Her, she tries to tear,
twists, the fall of fall leaves.
All pretend not to hear.

He holds onto her.  She tries to tear.
“Tried to rape me,” rings out.
All pretend not to hear.
“How can she, how can she not—”

“Tried to rape me,” rings out.
“Don’t tell me lies.
How can she, how can she not?”
The woman cries.

(All rights reserved, Karin Gustafson)

Now for the truly curious, here’s the breakdown:

For notation purposes, “A” and “B” refer to the end rhyme of the line.   “A1” refers to a specific whole line (which is repeated) and which uses the A rhyme;  “A2” refers to another specific whole line which also uses the A rhyme. “B1” is a specific B rhyming line; “B2” another specific B rhyming line.

A1
B1
A2
B2

B1
A3
B2
A4

A3
B3
A4
B4

B3
A5
B4
A6

A5
B5
A6
B6

B5
A2
B6
A1

A pantoum can have any number of quatrains as long as the patterns are maintained.

If you’d rather count octopi than repeating lines–check out 1 Mississippi at link above or on Amazon.