After chewing and digesting last week’s pantoum, one of my faithful readers commented, “I suspect this form is deceivingly simple.”  I had put a lot of work into it and was taken aback, but her words hummed
in my subconscious…  Perhaps she had intuitively grasped something
I hadn’t.  I wanted to test her theory by creating a “found” pantoum.  Currently in the throes of a summer reading frenzy, I borrowed two random phrases from each of the three books parked on my desktop
(The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron), and two more from my
go-to cookbook, a dog-eared copy of Real Thai by Nancie McDermott.
I typed and copied the phrases and went to work cutting and pasting, arranging and rearranging them according to the Pantoum Rule Book until they clicked in place.  The resulting poem is a bizarrely accurate picture of my writing life, the intersection of a soul and a notebook, a story told in the words of others but a wholly unique voice:  my own.


I’m mad for the smell of paper,
a habit I fell into of necessity
Without worry for things left undone,
I communicate only with glances

A habit I fell into of necessity,
connecting the dots into a mandala
I communicate only with glances
balancing sweet, sour, salty and spicy

Connecting the dots into a mandala
I must turn to face my own life
balancing sweet, sour, salty and spicy
alone with no one to guide me

I must turn to face my own life
without worry for things left undone
Alone with no one to guide me
I’m mad for the smell of paper

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  1. Tippy Gnu June 18, 2017 / 6:28 am

    This seems to dredge up a question I think we all face on WordPress: “Shall I spend my time today writing about life, or shall I go out there and face life?”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Just Joan June 18, 2017 / 8:07 am

      I love the romantic ordinary-ness of my existence, but when I’m submerged in writing and the ink is running hot, I really am mad for the smell of paper. Balancing the flavors of life is not easy and definitely a matter of taste. But you make a valid point, Tippy… I guess I should get moving, make my donut run and bring in the Sunday paper. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. chevvy8 June 18, 2017 / 8:07 am

    It is truly amazing how this form of poem works. I find that it can be read in so many ways. One way is the response given by Tippy. I think it is a profound and amazing poem because each stanza has a different nuance. I think the last stanza left the greatest impression on me. Your title is also very intriguing. Well done on both the art and the reflection Joan!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan June 18, 2017 / 12:20 pm

      Thanks, Chevvy! This was an experiment and I wasn’t sure it actually would work. Trying to “figure out” found poems is difficult, and in a pantoum, the meaning of each phrase can change, depending on its context. The finished piece spoke to me of how it is when I write… submerged in another world, but aware of the physical (smell of paper), mental (worries), and spiritual (inner self, balance). I often communicate only with glances (rather than speaking, so as not to lose my train of thought). In the end, writing is a solitary journey where we must find our own way, develop our own voice. I do love the smell of paper–new notebooks, musty library books, etc–so that phrase seemed apropos for the beginning and ending. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • chevvy8 June 18, 2017 / 12:30 pm

        I think it was a very good experiment, more so when we as the readers make meaning of the poem for ourselves, the meaning I attach to each word, phrase and verse might be very different. I think this kind of poem also invites the reader in for reflection.😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan June 18, 2017 / 7:26 pm

      Thanks, Marissa. It’s kind of both, if that makes any sense. But it was fun to write, and that’s what’s important. 🙂


  3. humanitiesphilosophy June 19, 2017 / 7:33 pm

    Perhaps it is my mad love for you or Thai, but this is my newest favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan June 20, 2017 / 1:33 pm

      Thanks, honey! I had a feeling the flavor of this one would resonate with you. 🙂


  4. L. T. Garvin, Author June 21, 2017 / 7:22 pm

    Well I have to say that none of it is easy for me, ha ha. What a wonderful found poem! I like balancing all the flavors of life and connecting the dots of the mandela while certainly relating to the feeling of being submerged. I chuckled at your using a Thai cookbook :-D. Oh the smells of paper, my favorite, I think, was the mimeograph sheets, remember those? Outstanding found poem, Joan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan June 21, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      Thanks, Lana. Disparate phrases sometimes make amazing poetry. So don your black turtleneck, grab four random books and a Starbuck’s latte, and give it a try! Real Thai is my favorite cookbook and seemed apropos since the pantoum is a Malaysian form. My dad was a math teacher in the 70’s and 80’s who mimeographed worksheets for his classes. We always got the leftovers to use as drawing paper, and the smell was exquisite. Xerox machines and laser printers cannot compare. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • L. T. Garvin, Author June 21, 2017 / 8:28 pm

        I may have to do just that, Joan :D. Oh wow, your dad was a teacher, you were so lucky with all those mimeographed drawing sheets. Xerox and laser printers surely ruined all that, ha ha. Kids these days have no idea.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. K E Garland June 23, 2017 / 8:50 am

    Writing is interesting because although you wrote one thing, each reader seemed to have gleaned something else. I think that’s the beauty of it. Interpretation based on one’s background. As far as the poem itself, I really enjoyed the line about the smell of paper. I feel the same way when I walk into a bookstore or library; it’s a nostalgic feeling almost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan June 24, 2017 / 6:43 pm

      Thanks, KE. You are absolutely right. One of my teachers said that poems are “mirrors” that reflect the reader’s thoughts through the lens of the writer’s thoughts. A lot of writers love the smell of paper… the perfume of our craft, I guess. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. circumstance227 August 4, 2017 / 11:05 pm

    I think the brilliance of this form is that it forces you to place an ostensibly banal sentence into different contexts which, in turn ,reveal all sorts of different interpretations – i.e. not so banal after all! There is a life lesson here that I will be mentally munching on from now until . . . ?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anacrazyfuturewriter May 13, 2018 / 10:46 am

    This is brilliant! I wholeheartedly agree with the first and last sentence! So, about the ‘found’ Pantoum… This entire poem was written by mixing and matching quotes from others? That would make the OPPOSITE of deceivingly simple, wouldn’t it? XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan May 13, 2018 / 11:00 am

      Yes, two random phrases each from four books that were lying on my desk. It took a while to arrange them so they (sort of) made sense. Another found poem I did that I particularly liked was a free verse one using 10 random phrases from 10 random books, one from each 100-block of the Dewey Decimals: Another fun “found” form is the “black-out” poem, which you can search on my site if you’re interested. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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