Make Sure Each Line of the First Stanza Serves the Structure of the Pantoum

Remember, the first and third lines will be repeated in the last stanza as the fourth and second lines, respectively. The second and fourth lines of your first stanza will be repeated as the first and third lines of your second stanza, respectively. That makes the first stanza key in completing the poem.

Let's diagram how:

1. The first line also is the ending.

2. The second line also makes a transition.

3. The third line also sets up the ending.

4. The fourth line also propels the poem.

To illustrate, here's the first stanza of my pantoum, "Boomerang":

Our lives are like pantoums. Those lines come back

To haunt us. Say your mantras, make your peace.

Every slur you heard is elegiac:

Something dies within. Something is released. . . .

It took me thirty-five minutes to come up with that stanza and to align it with the title. At first glance you can probably see how the first line foretells the ending: "Our lives are like pantoums. Those lines come back." The third line sets up that ending in the last stanza, foreboding another hurtful phrase. Meanwhile the second line —"To haunt us. Say your mantras, make your peace." —was conceived to hook up well with the fourth line and propel the poem to the second stanza.

When I had composed my first stanza, I was ready to proceed with the pantoum according to its scheme.

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