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Pantoum of the Great Depression

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W Chua

on 19 May 2011

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Transcript of Pantoum of the Great Depression

Pantoumof the Great
Depression Donald Justice Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we avoid tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry. Formed using quatrains (no limit on how many quatrains used)
Pantoum uses line recurrence in its structure: Final quatrain uses the first quatrain’s 3rd and 1st line as the 2nd and 4th line, respectively. Final Quatrain 1st Quatrain Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes. But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy. Modifying punctuation, wordplay, altering the repeated lines can be used to give new context to lines Original Malay Form: Uses an ABAB rhyme scheme
First two lines of quatrain present an image or allusion (used for rhyme)
Last two lines of a quatrain present theme
Parts of quatrain do not necessarily relate with one another Modern No syllable limit
Can follow Malayan rhyme scheme, but does not need to rhyme Donald Rodney Justice On the Author: (1925-2007) Pulitzer Prize, Bollingen Prize and Lamont Poetry Prize Winner
A professor at the University of Iowa, Syracruse University, Princeton University
Associated with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: Guiding aspiring poets The Great Depression Difficult for rural families
Needed to line up for government hand-outs of food and other needed materials, fighting for food
Middle-class had to live frugally to maintain homes and class
Shanty towns developed for homeless, destitute Worldwide phenomenon
Long period of time in US (From 1929-1933)
Led to stock market crash in October 1929, rise in unemployment rates, increase in tariffs, large rise in bank failures (closing) -> led to bankruptcy
Living during the Great Depression: Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes. Structure and Form General Form: 2nd Quatrain 1st & 3rd line 2nd & 4th line 1st Quatrain Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes. Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars. Known to be a master of poetic form: capable of using forms such as the sestina, villanelle and experiment in their usage, capable of using free verse
Common themes of his work: memory, loss and chance History of the Pantoum Origin : Was originally a 15th century form from Malaysia
Derived from the Malay word “pantun”
Usually a folk poem that is recited or sung, uses improvisation Development in the West: Introduced to Europe by Victor Hugo in his book “Les Orientales” in 1829
>first Western usage of the pantoum: Ernest Fouinet’s translation of a Malayan pantun
>French pantoum writers: Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Ernest Fouinet, Theodore de Banville, Leconte de Lisle Introduced to American writers by John Ashbery in his book “Some Trees” in 1956
>American pantoum writers: Linda Pastan, John Ashbery, Carolyn Kizer, Anne Waldman, Donald Justice Usage: Form gives a songlike and fluid quality to the poem
Can be used for narrative poems which require emphasis on subjects
Allows for multiple subjects to be introduced
According to Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, form allows for the “evocation of a past time” Figurative Language: Sound: Long-drawn-out Os serve to emphasize the motif “Simply by going on and on” (2)
“Oh, there were storms” (4)
“No audience would ever know our story” (20) The poem’s form inherently provides poetic rhythm Understatements in a grim undertone “Without end and with little apparent meaning” (3)
“We managed. No need for the heroic.” (6)
“And if we suffered, we kept quiet about it” (16) Brooding in conversation Thematic Analysis Elements of Poetry Dramatic Situation: The voice in the poem is reflecting on the Great Depression experience in retrospect Persona: Inferred that s/he is a survivor of the Great Depression Principal Imagery: Visual and Kinesthetic “Beyond our windows shone the actual world” (24)
“We gathered on porches; the moon rose” (25)
“drawn by slow horses” (29)
“entered our souls like a fog” (31) Form: The form of the poem encapsulates the slow, grim, and unending motif, since the pantoum repeats lines over and over again. Tone: “Oh, there were storms…” (7)
“I don’t remember…” (10)
“Thank god…” (14)
“We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues” (35)
“What audience would ever know our story?” (23) Simile “The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog” (31) Understatements “There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.” (10)
“Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.” (7)
“It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us” (18) Extended Metaphor: a Poem “no one said anything in verse” (14)
“neighbors were our only chorus” (16)
“there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry” (37) Symbolism: The moon, the horses and the fog are all objects that move slowly, symbolizing both the economy and the lives of the personas. Moon: This notion of perpetuity is like a never-ending cycle: like the “moon” (25) which waxes and wanes till eternity. Horses: Weariness, slow Fog: “The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog” (28). Souls are the spiritual and emotional essence of humans encased by the body, and if these are fogged and clouded by the experience of the Great Depression, then their sense of selves are unclear. Metaphor “neighbors were our chorus” (12)
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