A comparison of the beautiful poems "The Word Plum" by Helen Chasin and “What the Motorcycle Said” by Mona Van Duyn.

In the words of Robert Frost, "There are only three things… that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is the most important of all to reach the heart of the reader. And the surest way to reach the heart is through the ear."

“There are only three things… that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is the most important of all to reach the heart of the reader. And the surest way to reach the heart is through the ear.”

                                                                         –Robert Frost

Many poems contain passages in which the sounds of life are reproduced and personified by the human voice reading the poem, but not many poems manipulate the sound as intensely or as fully as the poems “The Word Plum” by Helen Chasin and “What the Motorcycle Said” by Mona Van Duyn. Both are poems that not only happen in your mind’s eye, but also in your mind’s ear. However the way Chasis explores the sounds of a particular word and analyzes them in relation to the word itself, as opposed to the way Van Duyn explores the sounds of a particular object, she is able to provide better lyrical words that are crucial to what is happening in the text of the poem. I enjoyed how both poems could be related to movies as they played in my head, because just as films do, both had to have certain sounds and sound effects to create their particular mood and establish their tone. As Chasis savors the sounds of the word Plum allowing me to almost taste and feel of the fruit itself, and Van Duyn lets me visualize myself as a motorcycle “r-r-room”ing and “r-r-ram”ing rolling, “leaves of grass into one ball”, I couldn’t help but pick these poems to comparatively analyze (Van Duyn, lines 1-2, 26).

Although neither poems are ambiguous and don’t rely on alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeias, metaphors and other figurative characteristics one would believe most poems have, both poems depend on the human voice to become its full self. In a sense, it only begins to exist as a real phenomenon when a reader reads and actualizes it. This was the first similarity I noticed instantly for both poems – that in order to get the full effect of the poems they must be read aloud; that way, the reader is able to notice the vocal rhythms and articulate the sounds as the poem calls for them to be reproduced by the human voice. One can miss a lot if these sounds in these poems are not imitated and are only read inside the reader’s head. For example, how can the rhythms of the motor in the first stanza in “What the Motorcyle Said” be picked up if one does not imagine themselves as a motorcycle and actually imitate the sounds: “Br-r-r-am-m-m, rackety-am-m, OM, Am / All–r-r-room, r-r-ram, ala-bas-ter– / Am, the world’s my oyster” (lines 1-3). “The Word Plum” is very similar in the fact that it is almost as if the poem is tasting the sounds and rolling them slowly down it’s tongue. The second and third lines even replicate the p, l, uh, and m sounds of the word while at the same time imitating the squishy sounds of eating the fruit: “pout and push, luxury of / self-love, and savoring murmur” (lines 2-3). Words like “delicious” and “luxury” makes it sound even juicier, and other words imitate sounds of satisfaction and pleasure – “murmur”, for example (lines 1, 2, and 3).

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