Chasing a Dream … a poet, a few goats, and a circular pantoum : March 3, 2023

March 3, 2023

A dear friend of mine, and poet, is constantly inspiring me with her skill in creating original and verbally illustrative prose. I love the visual images she can conjure with perfectly chosen and placed words. Happily, my collection includes many of her award-winning pieces, including poems she has penned to interpret beautiful works of art. Amazing!

Wanting to send her a unique birthday gift, complete with an original poem and illustrations, became my challenge. And what a challenge!

About a month ago I discovered an ancient form of poetry, a Pantun, which originated in Malaysia hundreds of years ago. This intriguing style of poetry not only rhymes, it’s repetitive, and contains word associations and metaphors.  For every four steps forward, the reader must take two steps back! Originally, the Pantun is meant to be sung, very slowly. After every two lines, the singer sings a long-winded chorus, before moving on. 

Thankfully, when the Western form, the Pantoum, was adapted from the original Pantun, singing the verses or the addition of a chorus didn’t carry over. But the slow progression of the quatrains due to repetition, along with the use of metaphors and word associations, did, and are still used today. 

So my challenge was to write a Western style Pantoum, and somehow include a poet and goats. I studiously studied many published Pantoums to become familiar with the rhythms and story development, the metaphors and hidden meanings. 

However, one false start led to another and then another, and a very messy drawing board.  Almost defaulting back to my favorite (and comfortable) Dr. Seussian style, one day while out hiking, the first few lines hit me! It wasn’t until then that story fell neatly into place, slowly. Being true to the “four steps forward and two back” pattern I was delighted to find the end came full circle just like they said it would ….. it was like “a snake eating its tail!”

So here is “Chasing a Dream” …. for Elaine  

Chasing a Dream
Squeaky hinge on a distant gate,
a wind-blown morning wakens intention.
Curious words craft a well-oiled escape
of a doe and wether, unless there’s prevention.

A wind blown morning wakens intention
in a poet rapidly scribbling the right conjugate.
A doe and a wether not seeking prevention
of escape from a lightning quick opening gate.

A poet rapidly scribbling the right conjugate,
tried with speed, and then sped to pen intervention,
of escape from a lightning quick opening gate.
But quick as bunnies two goats broke their detention!

Tired of speed, sped poetry itself needs intervention,
despite dire need to quickly pen closed that opening gate.
Bunny quick those goats did break their detention,
finding greener grass right away, which they ate and they ate.

Despite dire need to quickly pen closed that open gate,
the poet wasn’t worried, choice words signaled suspension
of green grass overeating, get away now, now abate!
Gorged goats belching on bellies fully bloated; painful distention.

The poet wasn’t worried, choice words signaled suspension
of the squeaky hinge on the gate.
Gorged goats bellies imaginary, nary a hint of distention,
curious words actually crafted only their dream of escape.
-B. Masinton February 2023,

The front side of my accordion card, first 3 verses
The back side of my accordion card; last 3 verses

Let me know how you liked the Pantoum about goats on the loose (or were they)? Perhaps it was a story about a quick and clever poet!

Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating form of poetry……

Pantun to Pantoum

Pantun, the ages old form of oral Malayan poetry, first entered written literature in the fifteenth century. It’s most basic form is a quatrain with an abab rhyme scheme. Each line contains between eight and twelve syllables. The sentence that makes up the first pair of lines (ab) has no immediate logical or narrative connection with the second pair of lines (ab). The rhymes and other associations, such as puns and repeating sounds, connect them. The first statement often turns out to be a metaphor for the second one.  The pantun in the original Malay, sung very slowly to a fixed rhythm, contains quatrains of two thoughts, but of one mind. 

To an English reader the quatrains seem overcrowded with meaning, forcing her continually to stop and think. But because the pantun is not intended to be read, but slowly sung, with a long chorus or refrain after each line, it “gains in merit by occupying the mind during the chorus instead of being dismissed as too transparent in its meaning.” A written to be read verse with obvious meaning, can’t stand the test of pantun-singing; the chorus becomes intolerably monotonous. (R. J. Wilkinson (1924)).  This made the Pantun difficult to understand and translate. 

So, the Malayan pantun or “berkait,” was adapted as the Western form, Pantoum. This slow and highly repetitive form of poetry, introduced in the 19th century was popularized by Victor Hugo.  It is of indefinite length, unfolding in interweaving quatrains and often rhymes abab. Lines two and four of each stanza repeat as lines one and three of the following stanza. The reader always takes four steps forward and two back. A pantoum typically begins:

Line 1:     A
Line 2:    B
Line 3:    C
Line 4:    D

Line 5:    B
Line 6:    E
Line 7:    D
Line 8:    F

Line 9:    E
Line 10:  G
Line 11:   F
Line 12:  H

At the end, it’s customary for the second and fourth lines in the last stanza to repeat the first and third lines of the first stanza, so that the whole poem circles back to the beginning, like a snake eating its tail. The pantoum is always looking back over its shoulder; always turning back while moving forward.


  1. Made Byfay says:

    Oh wow! This is amazing and mind boggling! You are truly ambitious and creative. It will take me several readings to begin understanding how this all works. The illustrations of the goat are adorable. What a special gift your friend will have for her birthday!


    1. Thanks so much for the comments, Fay! I really appreciate them, especially if you’ve been brave enough to wade through the words of the Pantoum! It was a fun challenge, and the hardest part of the gift. The goats were just pure fun. And she seemed to really like the gift.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. elainebhills says:

      Brilliant! I love the verbal images created, the use of metaphor, alliteration, coupled with those creative, beautiful illustrations. This is a piece that grows more beautiful with each reading!


      1. What wonderful compliments, Elaine! I’m so delighted you are happy with the Pantoum and illustrations! It was fun and a real joy creating this for you! What an awesome friend you are! Thanks a million.


  2. Michele Lee says:

    Beautiful project!


    1. Thanks so much Michele!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. pistofam says:

    What an amazing and special gift for your friend. She will always treasure it.


    1. Thanks so very much! She’s very happy, and I’m delighted!


  4. How beautiful that you created a custom card with an original Barb poem! That will be so meaningful to your friend! I hadn’t heard of this style of poetry before, it’s very creative!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Karen. She really liked the card and especially the Pantoum. It’s a very different style of poem (I would love to hear the Pantun version that’s sung complete with droning chorus.), and came across it in a children’s nature style book with poetry. So intriguing. Appreciate the comments so much!


  5. sgoodman56 says:

    Barb, I think you’ve outdone yourself! Every time I think you’ve reached the height of creativity, there is something more. This is so much fun to read and see, I’ll enjoy it many more times!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so very much Susan! Your comments are so wonderful. I really had fun bringing this birthday card Pantoum and illustrations, to life! Flambé is right ….. storytelling is great fun.


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