WD Poetic Form Challenge: Pantoum

It’s time for another Writer’s Digest poetic form challenge! This time around, we’re writing the pantoum, a poetic form filled with repeating lines and rhymes. The form originates in Malay.

Here are the basic rules for the form:

  • Poem consists of quatrains (4-line stanzas). No limit, but there should be at least 2 stanzas.
  • Each quatrain has an abab rhyme scheme. However, the poem can follow an abab/bcbc/cdcd/etc. rhyme scheme throughout.
  • Lines 2 and 4 of each stanza become lines 1 and 3 of the next stanza. Ideally, lines 2 and 4 of the final stanza will become lines 1 and 3 of the opening stanza.

Okay, so that’s writing a pantoum.

Here are the rules for entering the WD Poetic Form Challenge:

  • Write an original pantoum (or three)
  • Post your pantoum in the comments below along with your name as you would like it to appear in the magazine (if selected as the winner)
  • Deadline: March 8 @ 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia, time)

It’s really a pretty simple challenge, and the winning poem receives publication in a future issue of Writer’s Digest magazine as the example of a pantoum. So you’ll be famous and known around the world as a master of this particular poetic form.

That’s worth a few minutes of poeming, isn’t it?

The winner is usually announced within a week or so of the deadline–along with a list of other great examples (typically takes the form of a Top 10 list). So start writing your pantoums already!

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Workshop your poetry!

In the Advanced Poetry Writing workshop, poets will write and receive feedback on 6 poems during the 6-week course. Instructor Cherri Randall will share revision techniques that will help leading into National Poetry Month. Click to continue.

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Check out some previous WD Poetic Form Challenge winners:

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93 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Pantoum

  1. I_AM_ART

    “Kunst”

    What defines art
    Is it the music we listen to
    The drawings we see
    Or is it something more.

    Is it the music we listen to
    The tunes we daydream too
    Or perhaps the ideas we create
    Or is it something more.

    It can be very simplistic or complex
    Art is what you make of it
    Or is it something more
    Can it define every individual.

    Art is what you make of it
    It is a way of life
    Can it define every individual
    That’s a question only you can answer.

  2. queenofpigeons

    When I insist I’m okay
    and everything is going wrong
    yes, I am pushing you away
    but it won’t be for too long.

    and everything is going wrong
    the way I can cope
    but it won’t be for too long
    I’ll keep to myself and mope

    The way I can cope
    I’ll listen to a depressing tune
    I’ll keep to myself and mope
    perhaps even start to croon

    I’ll listen to a depressing tune
    bury myself in blankets, in bed
    perhaps even start to croon
    to get negative thoughts out of my head

    bury myself in blankets, in bed
    enjoy an author’s witty writing
    to get negative thoughts out of my head
    life is a little more delighting

    enjoy an author’s witty writing
    forget where I am for a while
    life is a little more delighting
    when it seems I’m about to smile

    forget where I am for a while
    just had to choose this book
    when it seems I’m about to smile
    the charming character turns out to be a crook

    just had to choose this book
    art mirrors reality
    the charming character turns out to be a crook
    beginning to believe this is a normality

    art mirrors reality
    so both of them suck
    beginning to believe this is a normality
    my emotions are running amok

    so both of them suck
    but continue to leave me alone
    my emotions are running amok
    give me time on my own

    but continue to leave me alone
    I’ll get through this phase
    give me time on my own
    you know, for a few more days.

  3. dmburke

    Where have we gone?

    By Deborah Burke

    Where have we all gone,
    Dear President and Congress?
    All of us human, but what have we done?
    Greedy for more, unhappy with less

    Dear President and Congress,
    you are human, like me,
    greedy for more, more, never less
    fighting and gunning and blaspheming, see?

    You are human like me, thinking
    What you do doesn’t matter that much
    Fighting, gunning, blaming, blaspheming
    Each other and we blaming you for such

    A state we are in. What we do does matter
    Matters so much, each thought, each word, each act
    We blame you for the consequences that tatter
    Our every hope, our every wish. This fact

    Has us afraid you—we—are losing our humanity
    Where have we all gone?
    Power and greed consuming us, destroying kindness and sanity
    All of us human, but what have we done?

  4. Jane Shlensky

    Namesake

    They called their place Nesting Goose Farm.
    They built a pond and bought a goose.
    Two geese might well have been the charm,
    but one lone bird? What was the use?

    They built a pond and bought a goose,
    insisting that it nest and stay,
    but one lone bird—what was the use?
    It sadly honked and flew away.

    Insisting that it nest and stay
    ignored essential mating facts.
    It sadly honked and flew away;
    nesting is not a solo act.

    Ignore essential mating facts:
    soon you will be a laughing stock.
    Nesting is not a solo act.
    Why make your neighbors point and mock?

    Soon you will be a laughing stock:
    You’ve named your land for what it’s not.
    Why make your neighbors point and mock
    your ostentation’s empty lot?

    You’ve named your land for what it’s not:
    Where is the eye for sense of place?
    Your ostentation’s empty lot,
    drawn features on a wondrous face.

    Where is the eye for sense of place?
    Two geese might well have been the charm—
    drawn features on a wondrous face.
    They called their place Nesting Goose Farm.

  5. Jane Shlensky

    Grass

    What can grass do but sough in wind?
    Low gusts comb it both left and right.
    Does it fold into sky and blend
    with stars of falling dew each night?

    Low gusts comb it both left and right
    as it whispers beneath the sun.
    With stars of falling dew each night,
    does it give thanks when day is done?

    As it whispers beneath the sun,
    its roots network and slowly spread.
    Does it give thanks when day is done,
    home for the living and the dead?

    Its roots network and slowly spread
    to cover mankind’s wrong and loss.
    Home for the living and the dead,
    nourished by our human dross.

    To cover mankind’s wrong and loss,
    does it fold into sky and blend,
    nourished by our human dross?
    What can grass do but sough in wind?

  6. Jane Shlensky

    Food Chain

    An ibis settles on the shoal—
    white plumes in shallows, standing still
    until the fish forget his goal
    to make of them his morning meal.

    White plumes in shallows, standing still,
    he’s in the moment, focused, clear,
    to make of them his morning meal;
    he hardly sees me watching near.

    He’s in the moment, focused, clear;
    he looks beneath the liquid sky.
    He hardly sees me watching near
    reflected in the water’s eye.

    He looks beneath the liquid sky
    where languid fish seek smaller prey.
    Reflected in the water’s eye,
    he strikes and pulls a fish away.

    Where languid fish seek smaller prey,
    he joins a chain that holds us all;
    he strikes and pulls a fish away,
    his answer to a primal call.

    He joins a chain that holds us all—
    an ibis settled on the shoal—
    his answer to a primal call
    until the fish forget his goal.

  7. queenofpigeons

    Whenever I lose my balance and fall
    is it because of them or me
    that I feel so small
    and I feel so unhappy

    Is it because of them or me
    that people laugh and sneer
    and I feel so unhappy
    the center of my life is fear

    that people laugh and sneer
    these people, whom I love
    the center of my life is fear
    but I look to the skies above

    these people, whom I love
    are not what they seem
    but I look to the skies above
    hoping it’s all just part of a heavenly scheme.

  8. sojh ellidwek

    A Lament for Breakfasts Past

    Oh toast I miss
    Your crunchy crust
    And buttery bliss
    A breakfast must

    Your crunchy crust
    I have to say
    A breakfast must
    To start the day

    I have to say
    Its not really lust
    To start the day
    You understand I trust

    Its not really lust
    Black coffee in my cup
    You understand I trust
    If I get up

    Black coffee in my cup
    My one true love
    If I get up
    You are the shove

    My one true love
    Oh toast I miss
    You are the shove
    And buttery bliss

    Oh toast I miss
    Your crunchy crust
    And buttery bliss
    A breakfast must

  9. marianneiswriting

    Eventually one day

    My baby boy will say
    ‘Mummy I love you’
    Eventually one day
    He will move on too.

    ‘Mummy I love you’
    The words melt my heart
    He will move on too
    And my tears will start.

    The words melt my heart
    For now he is so small
    And my tears will start
    As he learns to crawl.

    For now he is so small
    Cradled  in my arm
    As he learns to crawl
    I keep him safe from harm.

    Cradled in my arm 
    He’s growing up so fast
    I keep him safe from harm
    His neediness won’t last.

    He’s growing up so fast
    Not a baby anymore
    His neediness won’t last
    He loves to explore.

    Not a baby anymore
    An independent lad
    He loves to explore
    I worry like mad.

    An independent lad
    He starts to think
    I worry like mad
    My heart will sink.

    He starts to think
    ‘I’m moving out’
    My heart will sink
    I will smile, no doubt.

    ‘I’m moving out’
    My baby boy will say
    I will smile, no doubt
    Eventually one day.

    Marianne Marshall

  10. Josh Baker

    My Grandfather’s Ashes

    The loons swam upriver
    in perfect formation.
    A shiver ran through
    me. Their lonely song of divination echoing.

    In perfect formation
    his scattered ashes sank into the weeds, singing
    me their lonely song of divination. Echoing
    the memories that recede, like the banks of the river.

    His scattered ashes sank into the weeds, singing
    quietly, not to distract from
    the memories that recede. Like the banks of the river
    he returned. Ashes to ashes, mud to mud.

    Quietly, not to distract from
    the loons swimming upriver
    he returned. Ashes to ashes, mud to mud,
    a shiver.

  11. De Jackson

    Moment of Silence for a Song without Ears

    I wrote a poem, but you were gone.
    I swept my tears alone.
    I begged my heart to carry on
    but sorrow turned to stone.

    I swept my tears alone
    bidding my bones to build a bridge,
    but sorrow turned to stone
    as shadow cast its inky ridge.

    Bidding my bones to build a bridge,
    I wrote a poem, but you were gone.
    As shadow cast its inky ridge,
    I begged my heart to carry on.

    De Jackson

  12. stepstep

    SECRETS

    Open doors that dare not close
    Hold your secrets deep within,
    They hold them tight, careful not to expose
    Secrets of each and every friend.

    Hold your secrets deep within
    Sacred is each individual part,
    Secrets of each and every friend
    Treasure them with all your heart.

    Sacred is each individual part
    None can you ever betray,
    Treasure them with all your heart
    Like a diamond without decay.

    None can you ever betray
    Open doors that dare not close,
    Like a diamond without decay
    They hold them tight, careful not to expose.

    LaSteph

  13. PressOn

    MUSING ALONG THE OLD ERIE CANAL

    I wondered, as I walked along the berm,
    if travellers had pondered, as have I;
    although displaced by centuries in term,
    were all of us in search of reasons why?

    If travellers had pondered, as have I,
    although displaced by centuries in term,
    were all of us in search of reasons why?
    I wondered as I walked along the berm.

    William Preston

  14. Claudia

    In the dark

    In the dark of my heart
    I found you,
    like a piece of art,
    fresh and new.

    I found you,
    as a little light,
    fresh and new
    you made my night.

    As a little light,
    you enlightened my life,
    you made my night
    and I saw my knife.

    You enlightened my life,
    in the dark of my heart
    and I saw my knife
    like a piece of art.

    Claudia Pirina

  15. Claudia

    In the dark.

    In the dark of my heart
    I found you,
    like a piece of art,
    fresh and new.

    I found you,
    as a little light,
    fresh and new
    you made my night.

    As a little light
    you enlightened my life,
    you made my night
    and I saw my knife.

    You enlightened my life
    in the dark of my heart,
    and I saw my knife,
    like a piece of art.

    Claudia Pirina

  16. rine

    RAIN
    By Corina Goicuria

    Rain, rain, so many poems about rain.

    So much so drives me insane.

    Water so clear and so moist,

    Mouth so dry, not by choice.

    What is more free?

    But water you see.

    Rain drops carelessly,

    but always happens to hit me.

    Reminders of a youthfull time

    When the clock stood still, not needing to be rewind.

    Water gushing freely, unabide,

    Oh what a time it was inside.

    Doors were locked,

    Keys were tossed.

    A continuous pounding of rain dropped.

    Reminding me of innocents lost.

    Oh rain, sweet rain,

    can not wait for our time again.

    I may not want a poem about thee.

    But the memories you illicit, fills me with glee.

  17. rine

    Rain
    by Corina Goicuria

    Rain, rain, so many poems about rain.

    So much so, it drives me insane.

    Water so clear and so moist,

    Mouth so dry, not by choice.

    What is more free?

    But water you see.

    Rain drops carelessly,

    But always happens to hit me.

    Reminders of a youthful time,

    when the clock stood still; not needing to be rewind.

    Water gushing freely, unabide.

    Oh what a time, it was inside.

    Doors were locked.

    Keys were tossed.

    A continuous pounding of rain drop,

    reminding me of innocents lost.

    Oh rain, sweet rain

    Cannot wait for our time again.

    I may not want it in a poem about thee

    but the memories it illicites are a welcomed glee.

  18. mstempleman

    Whenever something bad happens have you ever surprised yourself?
    Have you ever been “happy” when you should be crying?
    Have you ever changed the subject in your mind, with a big fake smile to yourself and a joke?
    Well, I have

    Have you ever been “happy” when you should be crying?
    It is called denial, even though it doesn’t feel like you’re denying it at all
    Well, I have
    When you find out that what you really want is taken by someone else?

    It is called denial, even though it doesn’t feel like you’re denying anything at all
    Or, is it that I am blessed by bouncing back briskly?
    When you find out that something you really want is taken by someone else?
    You start to feel crazy, and gain a sour sense and that is when you realize that you have a problem that you’ve been hiding under a smile and a careless mask

    By: Avery Jones

  19. mstempleman

    Washington’s Ragtag Crew
    By: Avery Jones

    Are we anything, but workers?
    Working on new lands, for a king an ocean away?
    We are not British anymore…We are American!
    I am no Virginian anymore…I am an American!

    Working on new lands, for a king an ocean away?
    we rebel
    I am no Virginian anymore… I am an American!
    We rebel together

    We rebel
    when they force tax on us colonies, without our consent
    We rebel together
    But the king will not accept that

    We’ve rounded up militia-ready on a minute’s notice
    grab their weapons and take arm
    sharpshooters creep through those woods, bountiful with trees!
    slowly…this is strange ground for the King’s defenders

    We’ve rounded up militia- ready on a minutes notice
    Farmers, and blacksmiths versus the most intimidating army in the world
    sharpshooters creep through those woods, bountiful with trees!
    Shoot those who want to suck the liberty out of America

    Farmers, and blacksmiths versus the most intimidating army in the world
    And America prevails! Freedom is ours
    Shoot those who want to suck the liberty out of America
    It started with Washington’s ragtag militia- giving it’s life for an independent America

  20. Nancy Posey

    Books

    I found my friends on tall bookshelves
    Not flesh and blood but paper, ink,
    They came to life, my other selves
    They gave me courage, made me think

    Not flesh and blood but paper, ink,
    I checked them out and took them home.
    They gave me courage, made me think,
    Inside four walls, they let me roam.

    I checked them out and took them home,
    And read them hiding in my bed
    Inside four walls, they let me roam
    Where my imagination led.

    I read them hiding in my bed,
    By moon and stars or candlelight.
    Where my imagination led,
    I journeyed every night.

    By moon and stars or candlelight,
    They came to life, my other selves
    I journeyed farther every night.
    I found my friends on tall bookshelves.

  21. dmburke

    Pantoum: Where have we gone?

    By Deborah Burke

    Where have we all gone,
    Dear President and Congress?
    All of us human, but what have we done?
    Greedy for more, unhappy with less

    Dear President and Congress,
    you are human, like me,
    greedy for more, more, never less
    fighting and gunning and blaspheming, see?

    You are human like me, thinking
    What you do doesn’t matter that much
    Fighting, gunning, blaming, blaspheming
    Each other and we blaming you for such

    A state we are in. What we do does matter
    Matters so much, each thought, each word, each act
    We blame you for the consequences that tatter
    Our every hope, our every wish. This fact

    Has us afraid you—we—are losing our humanity
    Where have we all gone?
    Power and greed consuming us, destroying kindness and sanity
    All of us human, but what have we done?

  22. jonathan6shipley

    She was gone now, but she didn’t ever leave
    She stayed there, in that place, their house
    The yards empty now, quieted by leaves
    Bedrooms reliquaries for things – shoes, blouse

    She stayed there, in that place, their house
    Haunting him over breakfast, coffee and toast
    He’d sometimes escape, go to their old boathouse
    But she’d follow him, his beloved ghost

    Haunting him over breakfast, coffee and toast
    He’d talk to her, converse in hushed tones
    Remind her of their times on their boat on the coast
    Show her, on the sill, their collection of beach stones

    He’d talk to her, converse in hushed tones
    About how he loved her still, how she quelled his fears
    How he still felt her, on his skin, his lips, in his bones
    Even though she’d been dead for some eighteen years

  23. PressOn

    REUNION

    Longing could not make it so:
    a dream of passion long deferred,
    the vision owned my mind, although
    I always knew it was absurd.

    A dream of passion long deferred
    fixed fast within my soul and heart.
    I always knew it was absurd;
    too long had we been far apart.

    Fixed fast within my soul and heart,
    the vision owned my mind, although
    too long had we been far apart.
    Longing could not make it so.

    William Preston

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