The Word Plum

Helen Chasin

‘The Word Plum’ by Helen Chasin is a unique and interesting poem that asks readers to analyze language and experience. The poet focuses in on the word “plum” and what it evokes.

Helen Chasin

Nationality: American

Helen Chasin was an American poet, who capture 1960s America's turbulence.

She won the Yale Younger Poets prize for her poetry.

Key Poem Information

Unlock more with Poetry+

Central Message: Language can transport you

Themes: Celebration, Nature

Speaker: Likely the poet

Emotions Evoked: Compassion, Enjoyment, Happiness

Poetic Form: Free Verse

Time Period: 20th Century

This is a beautiful and evokative poem that asks readers to consider the ways that language can evoke experience.

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. 


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.” 

Literary Devices 

  • 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.

Detailed Analysis 

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
like fruit

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

taut skin
of pleasure.

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.


What is the theme of this poem? 

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.

Why is this poem important? 

The poem is important as it challenges our conventional understanding of language as an abstract or purely cognitive tool.

What is the tone of ‘The Word Plum?’ 

The tone is reverential. The poet treats the word “plum” with care and importance and helps immerse the reader in the experience of eating. 

What is the mood of ‘The Word Plum?’

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. 

Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other related poems. For example: 

Poetry+ Review Corner

The Word Plum

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.
Helen Chasin (poems)

Helen Chasin

Helen Chasin's poetry, including this poem, is known for its ability to make ordinary things extraordinary through language. Chasin transforms the act of uttering a word or tasting a fruit into a sensory feast. This reflects her unique poetic style, which imbues ordinary experiences with profundity and sensual pleasure, leaving an enduring impact on the reader.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

20th Century

This poem exemplifies some characteristics of 20th-century poetry, with its focus on individual experience, attention to the mundane made remarkable, and exploration of language's sensuality. The poem echoes the modernist and imagist movements of the early 20th century, emphasizing precision, clarity, and the concrete over the abstract.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


As an American poet, Chasin is part of a literary tradition that values individual experience, innovative thought, and emotional depth. Her work, including 'The Word Plum,' contributes to the rich history of American poetry.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem is a celebration of both language and sensory experience. It relishes the pleasure found in the simple act of uttering a word or consuming a fruit. The luxurious descriptions and sensory details underline this sense of joy and celebration.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The poem uses the natural element of a plum as a symbolic representation of language's richness and physicality. It conveys how nature, like language, can provide sensory delight, engaging multiple senses and creating a satisfying, holistic experience.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Compassion can be interpreted through the intimate, loving manner in which Chasin treats her subject. This compassionate view underscores the significance and beauty in seemingly simple aspects of existence, such as eating a fruit or uttering a word.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Enjoyment is central to the poem's theme, mirroring the gratification derived from verbal expression and the indulgence of eating a ripe plum. Chasin's joyful exploration of the word "plum" urges readers to find similar enjoyment in their language usage.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Chasin conveys a sense of happiness derived from the sensory delight of uttering a word and savoring a plum. The happiness resides not in grand gestures but in small, overlooked experiences that can offer profound satisfaction.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Chasin's poem reflects an appreciation for the richness of language and sensory experience. It invites us to be more aware of, and grateful for the joy and satisfaction found in the simple act of speaking or eating a fruit.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The creative prowess of Chasin shines through this poem. She imaginatively connects the act of speaking a word to the experience of eating a plum, highlighting the sensory pleasure inherent in both. This innovative comparison underscores her creative flair.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Food, represented by the plum, is central to the poem's sensory exploration. It symbolizes the tactile, flavorful, and visceral experience of language, reminding us of the physicality and richness inherent in the spoken word.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem is a testament to Chasin's creative writing prowess. Her choice of words and her ability to weave them into an evocative exploration of language as a sensory experience attests to her skill and craftsmanship.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

Free Verse

This is a free verse poem, characterized by its lack of regular rhyme or metrical pattern. This form allows for a more organic, flowing presentation of ideas, aligning with the poem's focus on natural, sensory experiences.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+
Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

Join the Poetry Chatter and Comment

Exclusive to Poetry+ Members

Join Conversations

Share your thoughts and be part of engaging discussions.

Expert Replies

Get personalized insights from our Qualified Poetry Experts.

Connect with Poetry Lovers

Build connections with like-minded individuals.

Sign up to Poetry+
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Got a question? Ask an expert.x

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?

Share to...