Battlestar Galactica Pantoum: This Has All Happened Before

This has all happened before, and it will happen again. Fans of the 2004-2009 Battlestar Galactica reboot know this mantra well. What if I told you that there’s a poetic form that fits this theme of inescapable repetition perfectly? Let’s explore one of my favorite monstrous manifestation (it’s a poetry blog post, I had to slip in some consonance) of poetic form: the pantoum.

What is this Pantoum Thing?

Poetry is an interesting literary genre. There are many different forms of poems, each type dictated by certain rules that guide how a poem of that sort is written (unless it’s free-form poetry, which generally doesn’t have rules).

Pantoums are a type of poem that follow a very specific format. Each stanza (the poem equivalent of a paragraph) is made up of 4 lines. These 4-line stanzas are called quatrains.

this has all happened before

The lines don’t have to follow a rhyme scheme (unless the writer wants it to), but they commonly follow an ABAB scheme. Each stanza also needs to follow a set pattern when it comes to what each line says. After the first stanza, the first and third line of all following stanzas repeat the second and fourth lines of the stanza before it (you’ll see an example of what this looks like below). In other words, pantoums say everything twice.

The poem itself can contain as many stanzas as the author chooses, and the final stanza repeats the third and first lines from the very first stanza. Actually, the poem begins and ends with the exact same line, bringing everything back full circle.

Here’s what the pattern looks like:

Line 1 A*

Line 2 B

Line 3 A

Line 4 B

 

Line 2 B

Line 5 C

Line 4 B

Line 6 C

 

Line 5 C

Line 7 D

Line 6 C

Line 8 D

 

Line 7 D

Line 3 A

Line 8 D

Line 1 A

Note that the final stanza doesn’t introduce any new lines. It just repeats two lines from the stanza before it, and two lines from the first stanza.
*the letters reflect the rhyme scheme of each quatrain.

Why Write a Pantoum?

The decision to use a particular poetic form usually depends on what the writer wants to convey and how they want their poem to flow. The pantoum’s unique repetitive pattern creates an interesting sense of deja vu and continuum, making it excellent for poems meant to evoke such feelings.

One fun thing that people do with this poetic form is create new meanings using slight changes in punctuation. When you read one of these poems, pay attention to how the author uses punctuation to change the meaning of repeated lines. I do this in a few different spots in the pantoum that I share in the next section.

BSG

An Example Pantoum

After writing about Battlestar Galactica for my Eight Nights of Deus ex Machina holiday series, I was reminded of a pantoum I wrote for a college poetry course a few years back. Because of the repetitive patterns that make this form unique, I thought it would be fun to play on themes of repetition present in Battlestar Galactica and wrote a fan pantoum. As a bit of added fun, I’ve included it below. Please note that I wrote this after finishing the whole series, so there are some spoilers for the 4th and 5th seasons.

This Has All Happened Before

This has all happened before
and it will happen again.
What do you hear, Starbuck?
Nothing but the rain.

And it will happen again
while Adama leads the fleet through space, hearing
nothing but the rain
driving on the hollow hulls of ships.

While Adama leads the fleet through space hearing
music echoing in the ships’ walls,
driving through the hollow hulls of ships,
Tyrol –among five— is secretly the enemy they created.

Music echoing in the ships’ walls
awakens Kara– harbinger of death.
Tyrol –among five—is secretly the enemy they created,
reliving a time before time began.

Awaken, Kara– harbinger of death,
lead the lost colonies to a home where they
relive a time before time began.
They build grand cities that mirror their mistakes.

Lead the lost colonies to Earth—
What do you hear, Starbuck?
They build grand cities that mirror their mistakes;
This has all happened before

 

 

 

Interested in reading more pantoums? Check out these poets: Victor Hugo, Theodore de Banville, Leconte de Lisle, and Austin Dobson. You can also check out suggestions listed at the bottom of this infographic I discovered.

 

Do you have a favorite example of a pantoum either by your own pen or someone else’s? Share it in the comments! You can also connect on Twitter at @Popliterary, or send a message on the “contact me” page.

And as always, if you have a literary device you want to know more about, or a game, comic, show, or movie that you want to see make an appearance on the blog, leave a shout-out in the comments!

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