Meghan Kemp-Gee

Winner of the Lyric Poetry Award in 2014

Pantoum 

The world unfolds itself at night.
It's getting late, but I don't mind.
This is a game I like to play.
I play these games to stay awake.

It's getting late, but I don't mind
explaining all the rules to you.
I play these games to stay awake,
and make the rules up as I go.

Explaining all the rules -- to you,
that's a game, too. You say I cheat
and make the rules up as I go.
I say we'll do away with rules.

That's a game too, you say. I cheat
at almost everything these days,
I say. We'll do away with rules.
You let them in, they'll eat away

at almost everything. These days
we keep them all at bay. At night
you let them in. They'll eat away
what we don't know we love. And yet

we keep them all at bay at night.
We fight but sometimes we forget
what we don't know we love. And yet
I still like it. I like the way

we fight, but sometimes we forget  
this is a game. I like to play.
I still like it. I like the way
the world unfolds itself at night.

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John Koethe on Meghan Kemp-Gee

Surprise is one of the main sources of the pleasure we get from repetitive forms like the sestina, the villanelle and the pantoum, as the rigid requirements of the form force the poet to arrange the words or lines in unexpected combinations.  But this can also be one of their main limitations, as the poem is liable to become too predictable in its unpredictability. Meghan Kemp-Gee's "Pantoum" avoids this pitfall, as [he/she] manages to vary and repeat the lines of the poem in ways that seem completely natural, maintaining a conversational tone that somehow elaborates a surprising yet coherent line of thought.  The result is a poem that combines the pantoum's strangeness with the intense directness of the deeply felt lyric.

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