A Short Commentary on Rebecca Frank’s “Listen Up! A Manifesto” and “Crawfish Chorus”

          I found Frank’s perspective regarding the significance of words in terms of how they sound when spoken aloud to be particularly intriguing. Previously, I analyzed the role of sound and sense in Paige Lewis’s “You Can Take Off Your Sweater, I’ve Made Today Warm.” As that poem progresses, the spacing between words and lines expands. The tight form of the poem unravels as the imagery changes from concrete (“Sit on the park bench and chew this mint leaf”) to abstract (“i don’t glisten to you”). The language in the first half of the poem is used to denote physical objects and actions that the reader can conceptualize. The language in the second half (“inflatable deer . . . / dear”; “i’m always glistening”; “click click click”) adds a sonic quality to the work. That is, in privileging the auditory, the poem takes on additional meaning.

          Whereas Lewis’s poem flirts with sounds, Frank’s “Crawfish Chorus” takes them to dinner. The alliteration, repetition, and rhyme in Frank’s poem read like a song. It seems like the speaker allows her tongue to pronounce the words and sounds that just sound right. I think the work is an interesting experiment with sound and spoken language. It claims that how the word sounds is just as important as what the word represents. However, although she appreciates the sonic lyricism of language, Frank is wary of what can happen when it is too thoroughly indulged in poetry (p. 99-100). It’s a fascinating conversation.

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