As a poet, I’m always interested in new poetic forms. Join Hands! by Pat Mora (with photographs by George Ancona, Charlesbridge, 2008) introduced me to the pantoum. The pantoum is a poetic form derived from Malaysia. It is composed of quatrains where the second and fourth lines are repeated as the first and third lines of the following quatrain. In Join Hands!, Mora uses the form (with slight alterations in her repeating lines) to create a poem about celebrating life through dancing, singing, masquerading and parading. The book takes you through the lines, one line per page, with accompanying photograph per line. A few Spanish words like ‘amigos’ and ‘canciones’ are used. (Mora is known for her bilingual Spanish/English books.) The explanation of the form comes at the end of the book. I wish it had come at the beginning, however! Reading the text linearly while viewing the picture made it seem a bit confusing. However, I did enjoy the lively photographs by George Ancona, accompanying each line. They feature children dancing and strutting and holding hands.
Have you heard of the pantoum or tried your hand at writing one? A few months after I read this book, I encountered a pantoum written by Canadian poet, Robyn Sarah in her latest book, A Pause for Breath. The form seemed vaguely familiar when I suddenly realized I had encountered it in Mora’s book.