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Quatrains are four line stanzas of any kind, rhymed, metered, or otherwise. Like the couplet, there are many variations of the quatrain. Some of the more popular as passed through tradition are:

How To Pantoum
I find the pantoum can get too repetitious for my liking, escpecially if it's written with fairly short lines because the repeated lines cycle faster. The repeated lines should elicit a definite emotional reaction in the reader, but they are not intended to necessarily agitate. An easy way to avoid the whole agitation business is to think about the pantoum line in terms of caesura and enjambent. If a sentence ends in the middle of a line, then the natural pause and emphasis that comes at the end of the sentence can be lessened. This way the line becomes enjambed and the reader naturally follows to the next line. When lines are continually end stopped, the repetons can seem overly repeated. If you want certain lines to receive greater attention, then, perhaps end stop them. If you want the line to be read more on the casual, natural side, then use enjambent. I try to vary the enjambents in my own pantoums, as variety is an effective way of keeping the poem fresh.

It is near impossible to repeat the repetons in their entirety, and I can't honestly say I've run across many that do. This is okay. Oftentimes you can rearrange a few words to put a little spice in the line, or add or subtract a word here and there. The pantoum can become acoustically overbearing, and slight varieties in line can help shrink that feeling.

Also, don't worry too much about what word to end each line on, or what vowel sound you want to rhyme the sound on, these worries will only get in your way. Let the poem decide what word comes next and where it fits in the line. The pantoum is a demanding form, and no poet needs to add any extra vices to the structure. Have fun, it only gets easier.

-- Damon McLaughlin

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Last Updated 8/23/99