History:

The Pantoum is a Malaysian poetry form that originated in the 15th century derived from the pantun, specifically from the pantun berkait, a series of interwoven quatrains, which itself originated as a traditional oral form of expression. As it made it’s way into the West it was adapted and altered by French poets, and then English. Follow the pantun link to learn more about that form.

Structure:

  • series of quatrains (four line stanzas)
  • the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third line of the next stanza
  • The first and third lines of the last stanza are the second and fourth of the penultimate; the first line of the poem is the last line of the final stanza, and the third line of the first stanza is the second of the final
  • Ideally, the meaning of the repeated lines shifts through altered punctuation, or recontextualization
  • Stanza 1
    A
    B
    C
    DStanza 2
    B
    E
    D
    FStanza 3
    E
    G
    F
    H

    Stanza 4
    G
    I (or A or C)
    H
    J (or A or C)