I mentioned in my 30 Random Facts About Me post that my blog was named after a line in a poem by Maryann Corbett. That poem is called “Romance Language” and it’s an absolute delight to read, so I wanted to share it with you guys. It was the first pantoum I ever read — the reason I even know what a pantoum is! — and it made quite an impression. A pantoum is a form of poetry similar to the villanelle, with certain lines repeating along the poem in a pattern.
This was originally published in the Euphony Journal, which appears to have gone offline, so I’m calling this safekeeping, too.
by Maryann Corbett
At first, when sounds were shifting,
(although the moves were noiseless)
by unresisted drifting
we voiced what should be voiceless
and though your moves were noiseless,
still I was moved, the cause
your voice. No longer voiceless,
we broke the ancient laws,
moved by a modern cause
to mock a classic notion.
We broke the ancient laws
and set the tongues in motion,
but mock a classic notion
(grim are the laws of change)
and tongues, once set in motion,
can let the words grow strange.
Grim are the laws of change:
the syllables, unstrung,
have let the words grow strange
so now a vulgar tongue,
its syllables unstrung,
leaves endings unresolved.
We speak a vulgar tongue.
Its case cannot not be solved
by endings. Unresolved,
the lips, the cheeks grow hollow.
Their case cannot be solved.
Their logic does not follow.
The lips and cheeks grow hollow
at last, and sounds are shifting.
We let the logic follow
its unresisted drifting.