Natasha Tretheway hits a homerun over at Poetry Daily today with a pantoum that pretty much blows my mind.
Though I went through a phase in which I was trying to write a lot of formal poetry, I rarely do so these days, prefering to try to find an organic shape for my poetry rather than beginning with a preconceived idea of what the poems should be. However, I remain impressed by the skillful, artful use of form.
I'm particularly interested in forms that repeat lines or words. French forms like the sestina, the villanelle, and the canzone fascinate me. A well-written sestina like Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina" dazzles me, and not only because the form is so hard to write well. I'm also taken by Bishop's ability to use the repetitive form to underscore what's happening in the poem. Like the repeated pattern of the sestina form, grief circles back on itself & keeps landing on the same images time & again.
Tretheway's use of the pantoum, a Maylasian form is another case in point. "Rotation" is a perfect marriage of form & content. Tretheway imagines her father as a waning moon, turning away from her as he recedes into memory. The careful repetition of the lines mirrors memory, how the speaker returns to this moment again & again. The repeated lines also suggest a kind of mirroring between father & daughter, just as the stanzas mirror each other.
On a related note, I have a pantoum in the newly-released Aspects of Robinson: Homage to Weldon Kees, an anthology that incudes some wonderful poetry written by a host of talented poets: Al Maginnes, David Graham, & others. I highly recommend it.
O for a muse of fire,