Return to Pantoum (thing)
|"A pantun is like a hawk with a chicken, it takes its time about striking." – Malay proverb |
A pantun is form of verse originating in Malaysia. It was introduced to the west via France by Ernest Fouinet and popularized by Victor Hugo. A number of French and English writers have tried their hands at it, but it still remains a very obscure form of poetry. Along its journey, the form of the pantun evolved (as did the sonnet on its path from Italy to England) and the name was westernized to pantoum.
As it is used in western poetry, the pantoum is composed of a number of quatrains. The second and fourth lines of each stanza become the first and third lines of the next, and this is repeated throughout. The last line of the poem is the same as the first. The closest analogue in western poetry is probably the villanelle, though the pantoum does not rhyme like the villanelle, and is even more obscure. The best example of such verse in English I’ve found is by the American poet Peter Mienke, "Atomic Pantoum".
On a personal note, I was once involved in judging a contest of high school art and writing, and one of the entries was a pantoum about, of all things, math. I was the only judge who actually knew what a pantoum was, so that should tell you how obscure it is. Unfortunately, the work only received an honorable mention, over my objections. I thought they should have won first prize just for knowing more than the judges did.