by Horace J. Digby
I was never big on poetry. But when a writer friend named Luana Krause told me about a new kind of poem based on geometry, I liked it. It's called a pantoum (pan-toom). Actually they date back to the 19th century, but to me any poem that doesn't begin, "There was a young man from Killarney," is new.
Pantoums are six verses long, and each verse has four lines. Poets call these verses "stanzas," but trust me, they're just paragraphs. In a pantoum, the second and fourth lines of each stanza repeat as the first and third lines of the next stanza. Clear enough? Luana had a chart. The first and third lines of the first stanza end up clustered in the last stanza. Nobody likes a clustered last stanza (well, except for Sitting Bull).
Here's that chart: http://arb.nzcer.org.nz/nzcer3/english/written/3200-999/wl3236.htm.
The first line of my pantoum was easy. It was also the last line, so I copied it to the bottom of the page. The second line was repeated as the first line of the next stanza. I wrote new lines every so often, and pasted them wherever the chart said. Remember the chart?
Soon I had a dull ache in my cheek bones and my temples were throbbing. But I kept going. I didn't stop, because I was . . .
What you see is my tenth draft. I'm still not happy with that line about "doom." But if I do say so myself, my poem doesn't even look like a limerick.
When I read it to my son, Adam, he said, "It's great, Dad." There was genuine respect in his voice, although he did wince at the Sitting Bull joke.
"What about the Killarney joke?"
"It should be 'Nantucket'," Adam said cheerily. But his enthusiasm was waning.
"I saw you wince at 'Sitting Bull' . . . "
"Wince is a polite word for what I did. But it's fine, Dad."
"Let me re-read this line about . . ."
"PUT THE PANTOUM DOWN!!!" Adam said, sounding like the commander of a SWAT team. He had unholstered his Smith & Wesson 340PD DAO J-Frame Magnum, but the laser site wasn't on. There was no red dot.
This may seem weird, but that little red dot is how I tell when an article's finished.
-- Horace J. Digby