The Collaborative Pantoum (A Writing Prompt)

This month at Tweetspeak, we’ve been exploring pantoums, the poetic form comprised of a series of quatrains, each successive quatrain borrowing lines from the previous. And as I’ve been studying and writing pantoums over these last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a great deal about collaboration.

“What does collaboration have to do with the pantoum?” you inquire.

I’m glad you asked.

Recently, we’ve defined collaboration here at Tweetspeak, noting that it is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” Isn’t that the way a pantoum works, each quatrain collaborating with its successor, quatrain working with quatrain to create a complete work? Yes, the pantoum is a metaphor, an artistic expression of cooperation.

Consider this example by Maureen Doallas, which was submitted as part of last week’s pantoum writing prompt:

Perhaps your dream drifted
through unbreathed air. My own,
perhaps, has settled, there.
Cherry blossoms still and fall.

Through unbreathed air my own
love threads a mask too dark to bare.
Cherry blossoms still and fall.
Night showers us in too-pink shawls.

Notice how the second quatrain borrows “unbreathed air,” and the cherry blossoms that still.

The more I consider the pantoum, the more I think that it is the perfect poetic medium for artistic collaboration, and for this week’s poetry prompt, we’re going to do just that.

Writing Prompt: Are you ready for a collaborative writing challenge, ready for a bit of group-think? Are you willing to engage in collective artistic expression, to build something with your fellow poets here at Tweetspeak? I’ll start in the comments below, using the second and fourth lines from the closing quatrain in Maureen’s “Perhaps,” which reads:

I cleave, as moon the sun or night the day.
I hold remorse, itself hearts sway.
Remind me, love, who comes, who stays.
Perhaps your dream drifted.

Join me, building a grand pantoum in a collective comment. Write your own quatrain, borrowing the second and fourth lines of the preceding comment. Are you ready? Let’s get after it. (For more on the benefits of collaborative writing, visit Tweetspeak’s recent article on the topic.)


Tweetspeak’s March Pantoum Prompt:

This month’s poetry theme at Tweetspeak is Pantoum, and we’ll be composing poems that fit the genre. This is an open month as far as thematic content goes, so be creative. How do you participate?

1. Study up on the Pantoum style, the form and theory.

2. Compose your own pantoum.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #TSPantoum hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a twitter user, leave your poem here in the comment box.

5. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and feature it in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

Last week’s pantoum prompt was filled with some interesting submissions. Elizabeth Marshall played with the form, eschewing quatrains and humorously attempting to capture the essence of the pantoum in a more free-flowing bit. She wrote:

…the first pantoum… I, well tried to write, it was so hauntingly repetitive I thought I was losing my mind, as I tried to write it. My first pantoum still haunts me. I worked so hard at staying within the bounds of the format when I wrote it, I thought I was losing my mind. Let me repeat. Try proofing your own pantoum against the required format, eyes blurred over, oh you get the point. Off to try again. If I don’t come back, please come looking for me. I may be lost in the maze that is the pantoum. And yes, I know first I must go research the “inventor” of the first pantoum and blame them for all the craziness.

B.A. Sheldon gave it a lyrical go in his pantoum, “Listen.” He wrote in part:

Who ogle at their own devices
Mesmerized and disconnected
Launching notes on glowing vices
What is precious, undetected

Mesmerized and disconnected
Singing fades, flutters away
What is precious, undetected
Listening has lost today.

Make sure you visit the comments for Sheldon’s entire poem.

Thanks to all of those who participated last week. I enjoyed each of the submissions.

Now, let’s get to work on the collective pantoum. I’ll go first. Who’s next?

Photo by Ed Yourdon, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines


Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In February we’re exploring the theme The Pantoum.




  1. Donna says

    To you the wind’s light kiss no more
    leaves gentle brightening on the cheek…
    I hold what light falls. It rains
    On both sides of the window

  2. Wendy Mauro says

    Gentle brightening on the cheek,
    then clouding of the heart and soul..
    on both sides of the window fall
    the tears, the rain, the memories…

  3. says

    I catch a glimpse, a vision veiled.
    The bride has fled, the oath renounced, quietly,
    like air against skin. Not knowing how to begin,
    she hates what love does start again.

  4. says

    Comes: a slash of veil, disguise undone.
    For the murder has only just begun.
    I scold. Remorce itself hearts away.
    Let’s hope we live to see another day.

  5. Jon says

    And all that is good seems to come undone,
    for all evils slashing thinks it has finally
    won/Stain dandelions, dying in the sun
    “come blow” the wind, “our seeds are spun”


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