Monday, April 6, 2015

White-Knuckled, Kids Submit—a pantoum

The school my kids attend is chin deep in the latest round of standardized testing. For this new state mandated assessment, each teacher has had to reserve an hour a day in the computer lab per class. For a month.

An hour a day; five hours a week; 20+ hours a month.

To add to the list of indignities, my older kid just got braces and my younger one is gearing up for a second round soon.

I got to thinking of standardizing, organizing, lining up, correcting, implementing, and "improving" and this pantoum worked its way out of me.


In the orthodontist's chair. Not white-knuckled. This time.
 White-knuckled, kids submit
to the orthodontist's chair
and the test-taking screens
to meet or exceed standards set by others

In the orthodontist's chair?
Technology serves
to meet or exceed standards set by others
to enhance satisfaction

Technology serves
and the test taking screens
amplify disappointment.
White-knuckled, kids submit.



Pantoums are rhythmic incantations, first invented in Malaysia, I think. I wrote a quick, 3-stanza pantoum where the 2nd and 4th line of each verse is repeated as the 1st and 3rd of the next, the last line is a repeat of the first line of the poem, and the third line of the first stanza is the second of the last.

One of the charms of a pantoum is the way that the repeated lines can take on new meanings in different contexts. Good poets can get away with taking some liberties and writing many stanzas worth of meaning. I'll settle for three stanzas today.

Want to try a pantoum? The Young Writers site is a helpful starting point. If you crave further detail, check out Poets.org. Write one and be sure to share it with me!


1 comment:

Jone MacCulloch said...

I love the line, 'white-knuckled, kids submit." Such a sad state of affairs is education. This is a favorite form of poetry for me.