Decide Whether You Want Your Pantoum to Rhyme Scan or Be Free

Because your lines will repeat, your pantoum will sound as if it is rhymed anyway. If you rhyme it, however, you will add another layer of sound so the effect is fuguelike. In music, a fugue is a composition that blends one, two, or more sounds or melody lines. In psychiatry, a fugue can be a symptom of amnesia in which a person has a forgotten and a remembered life —or two life lines. Both meanings of fugue are found in the rhymed pantoum, probably the eeriest-sounding poem in the English canon.

A metered pantoum sounds very deliberate and serves themes in which control is paramount: a person trying to solve a mystery, for example, or to overcome an addiction. This sound effect occurs because lines not only repeat, but repeat according to a distinct beat.

A freestyle pantoum surprises us and serves themes in which the unanticipated is paramount: jarring images of a nightmare, for example, or a punch line of a joke. This sound effect occurs because lines of varying length repeat in irregular intervals — some a long while for the setup and others, a short while for the jolt.

Once you have picked the mode, you're ready to write. For my particular pantoum, I decided to use rhyme and meter because I wanted my lines about hurtful phrases to reverberate in the heads of my listeners.

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