“Punk Pantoum” and the Theme of Death
A pantoum is a poetic form that originated in France in the 1800s. The poetic form contains between eight and twelve syllables in each line. The first two lines of the Pantoum “…prepare us in image, sound, and suggestion for the meaning proper in the last two (Salleh 254). It can also be obtained that the imagery used in pantoums comes from Malay life. Pantoums help to evoke emotion from their reader because of the tone that can be used in these poems. Each pantoum contains a different theme, where the speaker conveys this message to the audience. The visual imagery in the first two lines of, “Punk Pantoum” establish a tone that helps to convey the theme of death.
In “Punk Pantoum”, the speaker in the first line states, “Tonight I’ll walk the razor along your throat” (Stewart 259). In this first line, the visual imagery of the razor and the speaker’s partner is revealed. This creates a very dark and scary tone, setting up the mood of the poem. This line is interpreted as very dark because the speaker is wanting their partner to commit suicide with them. Through this, the speaker also suggests the beauty of death and this is further represented in the second line of the poem. Stewart writes, “You’ll wear blood jewels and last week’s ochre bruise” (Stewart 259). In this line, the visual imagery of the jewels that the woman is wearing relates to the theme of death through which the speaker mentions them as “blood jewels”. The speaker also mentions an “ochre bruise” ochre being a color that ranges from yellow to orange to brown. The bruises rest upon the woman’s body and later as the third line reads, these bruises were potentially from heroin use, “horse” being a street name for heroin. The visual imagery represented in Pamela Stewart’s “Punk Pantoum” displays a dark tone that establishes a theme of death.
Stewart, Pamela, “Punk Pantoum.” An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. Edited by Anne Finch and Kathrine Varnes, U. of Michigan Press, 2002. 254, 259.