Freedom: On Being Uncaged

I am so very moved at the poetic response to my post of a few days ago.  I have absolutely loved reading your words and have really gathered them close to my heart and reflected on the meaning of freedom and why the cage can sometimes be so inviting, so comfortable and what it takes to really claim my freedom.  If you haven’t read the latest contributions, please scroll down (or just click here) and relish them.

One of the poetic forms I often use with groups is the French Pantoum. It is a delightful and easy form to use, because you essentially generate six lines of poetry, which I help participants do by beginning with some free-writing about something like what brings them the most joy or is most life-giving. After free-writing for a few minutes I ask them to select six phrases from the writing that seem especially evocative and not to think about it too much. Then I have them fill in the lines to the Pantoum form as you see below and the repetition of phrases creates beautiful poetry. It is especially fun to see how the lines land in relationship to each other.

French Pantoum

STANZA 1
Line1:___________________________________________________________
Line 2: __________________________________________________________
Line 3: __________________________________________________________
Line 4:___________________________________________________________

STANZA 2
Line 5 (repeat of line 2 in stanza 1):__________________________________
Line 6 (new line):__________________________________________________
Line 7 (repeat of line 4 in stanza 1):__________________________________
Line 8 (new line):__________________________________________________

STANZA 3
Line 9 (repeat line 6 of the previous stanza):___________________________
Line 10 (repeat line 3 of the first stanza):______________________________
Line 11 (repeat line 8 of the previous stanza):__________________________
Line 12 (repeat line 1 of the first stanza):______________________________

I first discovered this form at a dream conference I attended several years ago. There was a poetry teacher there and to begin our time she asked the group to share the things that drew them to that space and essentially formed six starting lines from the responses and then created this beautiful communal Pantoum poem. I love communal creativity, and so below I offer you three Pantoums. There were 18 original poems submitted to my Invitation and I selected a line from each and so created three sets of six lines. In some cases I changed the pronoun or verb tense so it matched and then inserted them into the Pantoum poem to see what would happen.

I offer you here a sacred trilogy of poetic freedom (inspired by all of you):

Communal Pantoum #1: Freedom

a branch swings in the wind while connected to the tree
the gilded cage opens and streams of life drift outward
some day, that may be
what is this deep scarlet universe saying?

the gilded cage opens and streams of life drift outward
blooming into a new radiantly-feathered version that was honestly me
what is this deep scarlet universe saying?
shining time / at last i’m living!

blooming into a new radiantly-feathered version that was honestly me
some day, that may be me
shining time / at last i’m living!
a branch swings in the wind while connected to the tree

Communal Pantoum #2: Freedom

many a trapped heart, walks through an open door
loosened by the strength of his call and his song,
not the ashes of our failure
Wait – God unlocks the door! I spread my wings

loosened by the strength of his call and his song,
Life outside the cage
Wait – God unlocks the door! I spread my wings
flying / crying / dying / living!

Life outside the cage
not the ashes of our failure
flying / crying / dying / living!
many a trapped heart, walks through an open door

Communal Pantoum #3

even in the dark night my heart will sing
spreading my feathers
a thousand uncaged eyes
I reach out and open the door.

spreading my feathers
because not to fly was not part of my dream
I reach out and open the door.
it’s hard not to feel free on such a day

because not to fly was not part of my dream
a thousand uncaged eyes
it’s hard not to feel free on such a day
even in the dark night my heart will sing

Tomorrow I will announce the winner of the drawing.  Feel free to add more poetry to the post below, although I can’t guarantee another Pantoum unless I get six more.  :-)

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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10 Responses

  1. I’ve just discovered the French Pantoum and it has been an amazing process in which I am able to go deeper into my secret heart and discover the mysteries hidden there. I have begun to teach this form in my Grandmother Tree workshops and combine the pantoum with artwork. What we all are discovering is this is a powerful form of self-resourcing and self discovery.
    Blessings,
    Judith

  2. That was a wonderful idea Christine, i love the idea of communal poetry and you brought these together so well : )

    Paix,

    Wendy

  3. What a wonderful way to bring people’s hearts together. I also want to use it with others. A friend of mine and I send our poems to each other and one thing that I love to do is to find a line in her poem that strikes me the most and use that as a beginning for a new one of mine. We could keep going back and forth forever. It is very gratifying to see what lines touch other people deeply.

  4. Thank you, Christine. These are very moving to me…an incredible gift to see everything all woven together. Together we can make beautiful poetry!

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