The pantoum, derived from the Malay pantun, has any number of metred four-line verses (stanzas) rhyming abab, but its most alluring feature is an intricate pattern of line repetition as follows:
Lines 2 and 4 of each stanza are repeated as lines 1 and 3 of the next, until the last stanza where all are repeated lines. In the last stanza, in addition to maintaining the above pattern, lines 2 and 4 are the same as lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza, so the poem ends as it begins. In other words, the repeating pattern of a four-stanza pantoum would be as follows:
stanza 1: 1 2 3 4,
stanza 2: 2 5 4 6,
stanza 3: 5 7 6 8,
stanza 4: 7 3 8 1.
Many variations are possible, including important but subtle shifts in meaning achieved by playing with syntax or slight changes in word order, such as Kayla Czaga uses here in her poem, “Song.”
"Song" by Kayla Czaga
Outside my window, seagulls and crows continue
the discourse on language, insisting it need not be beautiful
to be song. If song accompanies their shallow black
and white bickering over garbage at 5 A.M., do I still believe
language needs to be beautiful? Their insistent discourse
pecks holes in the morning. Here I am still trying
to believe, at 5 A.M. despite the bickering over garbage
because faith describes perfectly how my mother is dying.
Here I am still trying to peck holes in the morning;
song is just the word I use for wanting
faith to describe how perfectly my mother is dying
thousands of miles away, in a small town I rarely visit.
Song is just another word I want to use.
Illness is just another word. Mother is just a word
thousands of miles away, in a small town I rarely visit.
The winter light pours slowly through my window.
Illness is just a word. Mother is just a word
with someone in it. Can I sing without words?
The slow winter light pours through my window.
Long after I’ve stopped making sense, I’m just a sound
with someone in it. Can I sing without words
and still be song, accompanying the crows, shallow and black,
making sense with just sounds? Long after I’ve stopped
seagulls and crows continue outside my window.
Kate Braid worked as a receptionist, secretary, teacher’s aide, lumber piler, construction labourer, apprentice and journey-carpenter before finally “settling down” as a teacher. She has taught construction and creative writing, the latter in workshops and also at SFU, UBC and for ten years at Vancouver Island University (previously Malaspina University-College). In addition to several books of creative non-fiction (Red Bait: Stories of a Mine-Mill Local, Emily Carr: Rebel Artist, The Fish Come In Dancing, Looking Ahead: Profiles of Two Canadian Women in Trades, and Building the Future: Profiles of Canadian Women in Trades), she is the author of the poetry books A Well-Mannered Storm: The Glenn Gould Poems, Covering Rough Ground, To This Cedar Fountain and Inward to the Bones: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Journey with Emily Carr. In 2005 she co-edited, with Sandy Shreve, In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry. Braid’s second book of poems about her carpentry experiences, Turning Left to the Ladies, was published by Palimpsest Press. Kate Braid tells the story of how she became a carpenter in the face of skepticism and discouragement in her 2012 memoir, Journeywoman. A revised edition of Covering Rough Ground – Rough Ground Revisited – was published by Caitlin Press. In 2015 she was awarded the Mayor of Vancouver’s Award for the Literary Arts for showing leadership and support for Vancouver’s cultural community. She lives in Vancouver, BC, with her partner.
Sandy Shreve has written, edited and/or co-edited seven books and two chapbooks. Her most recent poetry collection is Waiting for Albatross (Oolichan Books, 2015). Her previous books include Suddenly, So Much (Exile Editions, 2005) and Belonging (Sono Nis Press, 1997). Shreve’s contributions to the literary arts include founding BC’s Poetry in Transit program, as well as serving on a variety of committees and juries. Her poetry is widely anthologized and has won or been shortlisted for several awards. Now retired, she worked in communications for fifteen years and, prior to that, as an office manager, secretary, union coordinator, library assistant and reporter. Born in Quebec and raised in Sackville, New Brunswick, she lived for some 40 years in Vancouver, British Columbia. Sandy Shreve now makes her home on Pender Island in BC, where she is diving into a relatively new interest in photo art.
Kayla Czaga grew up in Kitimat and now lives in Vancouver, BC, where she recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing at UBC. In 2016, she received the Emerging Writer Award from the Canadian Authors Association. Her poetry, non-fiction and fiction has been published in The Walrus, Best Canadian Poetry 2013, Room Magazine, Event and The Antigonish Review, among others. Her debut book, For Your Safety Please Hold On, was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award (2015), the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (2015), and the Debut-litzer Prize (2015), and it won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award (2015).
In the decade since the publication of the first edition of In Fine Form, there has been a resurgence of Canadian poets writing in “form” – in sonnets and ghazals, triolets and ballads, villanelles and palindromes — and formal poetry has become more visible in books, literary journals and classrooms. The first edition of this anthology was called “groundbreaking,” “a paradigm shift” and “a landmark text.” Since then, it has gone through several printings and been widely used in classrooms at all levels from elementary school to university, by writers who want to try something new, and by readers eager to explore a whole other side of Canadian poetry.
Of course, Canadians have always written in form, and some of its early practitioners such as Charles G.D. Roberts and Robert Service are again represented here, as well as more recent writers such as PK Page, Margaret Atwood, Fred Wah, Rachel Rose, Christian Bök and George Elliott Clarke. The new edition includes 51 new poets including Nicole Brossard, Rob Taylor, Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Kyla Czaga, David O’Meara, Sheri-D Wilson, George Bowering, Lillian Allen, Marlene NorbeSe Philip, Mary Dalton, and also explores exciting new forms not acknowledged in most other anthologies including spoken word, prose poems, doublets, found poems and pas de deux.
In Fine Form 2nd Edition is an anthology that continues to break new ground, a thrilling collection of more than 25 forms and 180 poems arranged by section, one for each form, with a brief introduction to the form’s history and variations. An extended essay explores common poetic terms and technical devices. Surprising and exhilarating, here is a showcase for some of the best poetry this country has produced.
Arrived September 2016.
Book Launches: Done and gone!
Purchases: From the Cailtin Press website or at your local bookstore. $29.95.
Groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting, landmarking.
The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.