"Parent's Pantoum" by Carolyn Kizer - Pantoum

The Pantoum is very similar to the Villanelle as it also originated in France and involves the use of repetition. Pantoum’s these days can be of any length. They’re usually composed of 4 line stanzas with the second and fourth lines of each serving as the first and third line of the next stanza. The last line is usually the same as the first.

Parent’s Pantoum follows these guidelines fairly closely. There are 9 stanzas of 4 lines and 1 stanza of one line. The first and last lines are related but not the same and the second and fourth lines do serve as the 1st and 3rd lines of the next stanza. However, the poet, Carolyn Kizer breaks away from tradition by not repeating the same lines in the last couple of stanzas.

Kizer’s poem juxtaposes an old woman and her younger child who has suddenly grown up. This is why she’s surprised at all “these enormous children.” Like any other parent, the speaker is shocked at how fast her charges grew up. The rest of the poem then builds up to one point, “They don't see that we've become their mirrors.”

These children are so afraid of becoming old that they look older than their parents even feel. They “moan about their aging” because they’re so afraid of it since it stares them in eye every time they look at their parents. By wearing “fragile heels and long black dresses,” these younger women try to become younger than they are.

The roles between the two groups are also reversed. The younger girls are now the patronizing ones, acting like superiors to their own parents. Now, the older women “pour like children.” It is like their a child of their children.

Pantoum’s, with their unique form allows for one continuous thought. While stanzas are usually meant to act like paragraphs, separating different ideas, a Pantoum links all the paragraphs with a common theme. In this case, aging.



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