Pumping Up the Pantoum Workshop


The pantoum originated as a Malaysian poetry form that involves a specific pattern of repeating lines. It was discovered in the West by Victor Hugo, adopted by Baudelaire, and championed by contemporary American poets such as Carolyn Kizer, John Ashbery, Marilyn Hacker, and Donald Justice. The form promotes poems of imaginative narrative or obsessional description. Pantoums were originally an oral form and their power of out-loud presentation persists among contemporary literary examples. In this workshop we will study several pantoums in a range of styles and voices and learn ways that the form’s repetition can be varied to pump-up interest and elevate what’s at stake. By carefully crafting repeated statements in the pantoum form, writers can engender poems with strong musical and emotional effects.