This piece is quite short at only eleven lines long but it is filled with memorable images. These lines are meant to transport readers while also challenging them to think about language in a new way.
Explore The Word Plum
‘The Word Plum’ by Helen Chasin is a creative poem that uses images to convey the rich, tactile, and even sensual experience of tasting a plum (in addition to saying the word “plum”).
The author draws parallels between the physical act of eating a plum – its pout, push, juicy and tart flesh, and the piercing of taut skin – and the act of saying the word. Chasin presents language as a form of self-love and pleasure, as ripe and satisfying as the fruit itself.
Structure and Form
‘The Word Plum’ by Helen Chasin is a five-stanza poem that’s written in free verse. The five stanzas are different in length. The first is one line long, the second and third are both two lines long, and the fourth and fifth are both three lines long.
The poet wrote this piece without a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern in mind. The lines end with very different words, like “delicious,” “of,” “murmur,” and “falling.”
- Consonance: The repeated ‘s’ sound in “savoring” and “self-love” is a form of consonance that adds to the poem’s rhythm and musical quality.
- Alliteration: This is seen in the phrase “pout and push,” where the repetition of the ‘p’ sound adds to the rhythm and flow of the poem.
- Imagery: The author uses detailed and sensory language to create vivid images that engage the reader’s senses. Words like “delicious,” “luxury,” “savoring murmur,” “juice,” and “tart flesh” invoke the sense of taste and touch, creating a vivid sensory experience.
Stanzas One to Three
The word plum is delicious
pout and push, luxury of
self-love, and savoring murmur
full in the mouth and falling
The first stanza is only one line long and focuses on the word “plum.” This is a central part of the poem. It suggests that the poem is about more than just a piece of fruit; it’s about the way language can be as tangible and tantalizing as a juicy, ripe plum.
It establishes an immediate sensory connection, inviting the reader to think of words as something that can be tasted and savored just like the fruit itself.
The comparison between eating and speaking is continued in the next lines. The poet writes, “Pout and push,” describing the movements of the mouth as it forms the word “plum,” or the act of eating a plum itself.
The poet goes on to use interesting phrases like “luxury of / self-love” that help bring the poem into the realm of the body and mind. It might symbolize the pleasure and satisfaction derived from the utterance of words, just as one derives pleasure from eating a plum.
Stanzas Four to Five
The next stanza is three lines long. It uses more violent language, like “bitten” and “provoked” in order to depict breaking off of the fruit’s skin and the release of juice. This is very easily imagined as a metaphor for speaking.
The final stanza draws a clear parallel between the act of conversation (the exchange of question and reply) and the experience of eating a plum. Here, the “lip and tongue” are not just tools for speech but also for tasting, creating a sensual connection between language and the experience of flavor.
This stanza presents the dialogue as a source of pleasure akin to the sensory enjoyment derived from consuming the fruit.
The primary theme of this poem is the connection between language and experience. The poem explores how speaking or verbalizing words can be similar to the act of eating a delicious plum.
The poem is important as it challenges our conventional understanding of language as an abstract or purely cognitive tool.
The tone is reverential. The poet treats the word “plum” with care and importance and helps immerse the reader in the experience of eating.
The moon is one of enjoyment. There is nothing but a pleasure and joy felt throughout the lines of this piece. This is seen through the poet’s use of language and images.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other related poems. For example:
- ‘The Language’ by Robert Creeley – is an interesting poem that grows easier to understand with each reading. It discusses love and the way its conveyed and felt.
- ‘The Language of the Brag’ by Sharon Olds – is an unforgettable poem about the strength and exceptionality of women’s bodies.
- ‘Language Lesson 1976’ by Heather McHugh – uses language cleverly to make statements about America and love.