This poem is another one written in my Forms class at Saint Mary’s College of California with the inimitable Brenda Hillman. And when I wrote it I was a beginner in writing eco poetics, actually kind of nervous of the contents…what would my old company and co-workers think? And here it is in a book and now in a video on the internet. Strange to think back five years ago to my tentativeness. Oh and btw there were only two minor injuries in this horrific explosion, it was incredibly lucky that was the case.
The poem is a pantoum, a form adapted to French and then English but originally a Malaysian song form. Pantoums formally are composed of quatrains in which the second and fourth lines of each stanza serve as the first and third lines of the next. Often each stanza follow an ABAB rhyme scheme or use the same poetic meter. But in this instance the form has been modified in this poem. The rhyme scheme is broken once in the third line, there is a slant rhyme in stanza five with “ground” and “shroud” and the last stanza is only three lines using ABB rhyme with the very last line echoing the contents of the first line of the poem.
So why a pantoum for this topic? I wanted to try using this received form with its constraints to see if I could develop a commentary on the fossil fuel industry. The idea that the next stanza re-used material from the previous seemed perfect for the ecological content but more so it would force me in unexpected directions. The constraint of the rhyme also would help me write material in a form I might not normally do in pure free verse. But I also was willing to break the constraints but not too much. After all the poem is both pantoum and ecopoetry.