What is a Pantoum?

RaJ brought up a good point with his recent comment. Most people probably don’t know what a pantoum is, nor why it might be interesting to write an automatic pantoum generator. So, today, I’ll try and explain what a pantoum is (with my Wikipedia tied behind my back!).

A pantoum is one of many forms that a poem can take. Some other forms that you probably have heard of are the limerick, the haiku, and the sestina. Like the haiku, the pantoum needn’t rhyme, although it certainly can. Each verse of a pantoum consists of four lines of more or less equal length. The second and fourth lines of each verse then appear as the first and third lines of the next verse. Optionally, the first and third lines from the first verse can reappear as the second and fourth lines of the last verse.

Perhaps an example will more fully illustrate this form. Here’s a pantoum I wrote a long time ago (during a tragic and meaningful phase) as an assignment for a creative writing class:

I play the piano of good and evilMy fingers bring notes of joy and sorrowWhite keys, sunny days. Black keys,Nights in which voices disappearMy fingers bring notes of joy and sorrowAll my melodies use both keysNights in which voices disappearLost chords into the voidAll my melodies use both keys
And you will all dance to my tune
Lost chords into the void
Shadows with daggers

And you will all dance to my tune
Young then old; living then dead
Shadows with daggers
To take you into the night

Young then old; living then dead
White keys, sunny days, black keys
To take you into the night
I play the piano of good and evil

And that is a pantoum. Why not try writing one yourself? It can be quite fun.

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