Surprise the Line: Playing with the Pantoum

Surprise the Line: Playing with the Pantoum

You are invited to a one-day generative poetry workshop on the last Sunday of the month led by Nancy Lynée Woo. Surprise the Line is a small-group generative poetry writing workshop that is curiosity-driven and process-oriented. We meet each other wherever we’re at in our creative journeys and have a good time exploring our inner worlds.

SEPTEMBER: Playing with the Pantoum
Sunday, September 29th, from 1:00-4:00 pm
Grounds Cafe in Long Beach

***What You Will Learn

You’ll learn how to write a pantoum! A pantoum is a poem of any length, with four-line stanzas and a pattern of repeating lines. Two lines from the first verse are repeated in the second verse, and the two new lines from the second verse are repeated in the third verse, and so on. The result is a sort of scaffolding effect, like a slinky slinking down the stairs, or a helix wrapping around itself as it glides forward.

It’s great for all levels because if you’ve never written a pantoum before, I’ll walk you through the form, step by step. Following a pattern can actually allow for a lot of creativity and interesting discoveries. A pantoum can be particularly good for diving into memory, or tackling an emotionally charged issue that we feel we are right in the middle of, because it’s like taking four steps forward, then circling back two steps, then taking two forward, two back. It’s sort of like a dance, where the repeating lines keep the rhythm.

If you are an experienced poet with a few pantoums under your belt, consider this an opportunity to try your hand at another one 😉 I’ll walk us through some example poems so we are thinking about how they are crafted at a deeper level. We can help each other along the way, and remember it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first draft.

This is a great exercise to think about how repetiton operates in a poem, specifically in regards to repeating lines. Keep an open mind, and come in ready to enjoy playing around with lines!

***Workshop Format

In every workshop, we start by introducing ourselves, discussing the topic, and reading some example poems to get the wheels turning.

Then, I give a few warm up prompts to start us freewriting in relationship to the topic/theme. This helps us warm up and start making free associations. This part is so important, because writing poems (in my experience) is all about opening up to the connections between things. So, we allow space to do that. (Runners, athletes, and performers do warm up exercises, and so too do poets in this workshop.)

Bonus: This is a great workshop to break through writer’s block because we focus on the activity of writing, rather than on our brain’s judgements and criticisms. Everything is low stakes, which means it doesn’t have to be “good,” it just has to be written!

After our warm up, I provide a prompt (or options) to turn your warm-up material into a poem (this time, it is a pantoum template). You are always free to write whatever you wish, and use this time as a dedicated creative space to work on whatever has come up for you. You are always welcome to bring working poems to revise if you choose.

You will leave with sections of a poem, if not a complete first draft, and a process you can repeat ad infinitum! I always give a brief handout with poems, discussion and prompts to take home with you.

There will be some time at the end to briefly share our work and responses in a supportive way with the group.

***How to Sign Up

All levels are invited to play! Whether you’re just starting to get interested in reading and writing poetry, or whether you have been writing for years, this workshop offers a space to explore and write. In order to surprise the line, we have to first surprise ourselves: this is a creative space to unplug from all distractions in the outside world and connect to your creative center. Writing poems is part craft and part self-discovery.

The full ticket value is $30. **SLIDING SCALE: For underemployed/students/low or fixed income etc.: If the full price would be prohibitive to you, I can offer two tickets on sliding scale per workshop. Suggested: $15-$30. Make it work for you! Everyone welcome!

Physical space limits us to 9 attendees. RSVP and payment ahead of time are suggested to secure your spot and also give me a head count for printing. If it’s not full, you’re welcome to come day of 🙂 Cash or check is also fine.

Email me at with any questions, thoughts or comments.

A small or regular-size coffee or tea is included with your ticket! Specialty drinks and food are available for purchase from the coffee shop.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Motivating Philosophy

Structure allows room for experimentation. Add elements of craft to your unique aesthetic, stir, and see what happens. Taking our work seriously doesn’t mean taking ourselves too seriously! Invite surprise onto the page. Have fun! Poetry is discovery. What else is there to do but create?

For reviews of past workshops from previous attendees, please see: and