Role of Sound and Imagery in Poems

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Poems apart from describing scenarios, telling stories, and allowing poets to express their innate feelings, also have the ability to draw in an audience to a world of imagination and a virtual experience of the events in the piece. A good poem is one that successfully manages to capture the attention, emotions, and the mind of the reader at the moment. Imagery and sound are among the features that help a poet achieve in efficiently delivering a message to an audience and evoke the intended feelings and action (Malan 270). This paper will, therefore, analyze the role of sound and imagery in the poems, When My Brother Was an Aztec, It Was the Animals and My Brother My Wound. Poets use sound to reinforce experiences images and meaning while imagery aids in connecting emotionally with the audience, convey messages efficiently and create a mood for the poem.

When My Brother Was an Aztec

Diaz in this poem has employed the use of imagery to help the reader understand and see visual images of the poem in the mind. For example in lie 5- 6 she says that her parents walked behind her brother like effigies in a procession because he might drop at the ground at any moment (672,673). The lines make it easy for a reader to picture how the Diaz parents were always following her brother. The line also creates a sad mood for the reader since it shows how the brother was a hopeless case and the parents were expecting something bad each day. In line 22 to 23 Diaz describes how her brother threw her parents into cenotes and bore holes into their skulls like vases or jars. A reader can actually see the image of broken jars and vases and how the broken pieces are unfixable. These sentences evoke the emotion of sadness for the parents and a little anger for Diaz’s brother.  Despite the care and selflessness, the parents have for him he still takes them through the same pain equated to the broken jars and vases. The imagery in this poem helps the reader connect emotionally with the narration and get the sombre mood of the poem.

Diaz has also used sound devices like assonance in line 26-27 she repeats the vowel ‘e’ in each word similar to line 36-37 where Diaz has the vowel ‘o’ in repetition (673). She uses this sound device to create a rhythm in the poem with the aim of not only entertain the reader but also capture attention and ensure that the words are memorable. The poem also contains visible half rhyme words with the aim of ensuring that the reader does not only pay attention to the sound of the words but also attention to the words in the poem. Half rhyme is evident in line 17 where she states that her brother shattered and quartered and in line 27 where Diaz says that her brother smelled of rotten peaches and matches. This poem takes the reader through the similar emotional roller coaster Diaz brother takes the parents due to substance abuse. It allows the reader to understand the struggles parents go through both emotionally and physically to take care of their children who have a problem with substance abuse. The imagery in this poem makes one feel like a third party watching as the events unfolds but cannot do anything to help.

 My Brother My Wound

In this poem Diaz uses imagery does not only to help the reader understand the poem but also create graphic representations of the scenes in the reader's mind. These images in the mind of the reader, appeal to the senses of the reader thus deepening the connection to the poem. She also uses imagery to create a lasting impression that the reader will not easily forget. For example, in stanza 1 line 3, it is hard for an audience not to picture the motion of the bulls charging continuously like a river. The words dark river also shows that they were coming quite fast creating a shadow as they moved. In stanza 3 Diaz uses imagery to engage the reader in an emotional way. She states how she was punching her brother’s stomach to prevent him from choking. It is an emotional scene that a reader cannot avoid picturing as it evokes the emotion of pity and care from the reader. This stanza also creates curiosity as one wants to know did she manage to keep him from choking and also the reader also wants to know what happens next.

Stanza 4 is also painful for the reader to read. She actually uses the word ‘A Jesus side wound’ to also describe and give the exact position of the wound the brother inflicted on her. This stanza is quite scary and painful when one pictures it someone piercing you and reaching inside the wound. In this poem, Diaz does not only connect with the reader’s senses but stirs the emotions of the reader from being scared of the bulls, care for a choking brother and also pain from the wounds inflicted on the body. The poem also utilizes sound through devices like repetition used to emphasize critical points. Diaz repeats the word ‘He said' twice to show that the brother was commanding. The brother says the word look twice showing that the brother commanded the small red eyes to see what he was going to do next. In stanza 2, she uses alteration achieved through the emphasis of the word ‘He’ to show the progressive action of the brother’s actions.  This poem makes one feel like part of the poem the wounds inflicted on one’s body and heart as you watch someone you love suffer but still trying to be part of their lives despite the pain.

It Was the Animals

In this particular poem, Diaz allows the reader to be part of a conversation between a brother and a sister about an ark, and also watch as events unfold before their eyes. While reading the poem it is hard for a reader not to imagine being the sister of the brother in the poem. Imagery describes the events in the poem and the reader experiences hem first hand. for example, when Diaz writes in stanza 2 line 4-5 that the brother set the plastic bag on the dining table and peeled it away to uncover the hidden object. This sentence engages the sense if sight in the reader mind and one can almost see the action and the image revealed only not literally. In stanza 5 line 1 she states that the paper rattled and it is quite amazing how one can imaginatively hear the sound of the paper rattling.  She also appeals to the reader's sense of touch in, line 47 when she says that the tails of the animals snaked across her feet when reading this sentence the feel of tails snaking across your feet is so vivid. In this poem, Diaz has successfully appealed to the senses of the reader. This does not only help in capturing the interest of the reader and making the poem memorable, it also makes it feel like an experience and helps in sustaining the interest of the reader. It is also easy for the reader to understand the poem and the words more deeply because it feels like one is relieving the moment as it happens.

The poem employs the use of sound through rhyming of words. Even though the rhyme scheme is irregular it is easy to follow a certain pattern of the words that rhyme giving the poem a particular rhythm giving it form and helps in pleasure while reading. Diaz used the irregular rhyme scheme to make sure that it breaks the monotony creating unpredictability on the poem thus sustain the interest of the reader. The poet also employs the use of consonance in several instances in the poem to place emphasis and make the poem more interesting to read.

In conclusion, Diaz uses imagery and sounds to not only make the poems interesting but appeal to the emotions and judgment of the reader. She also ensures that the reader does not feel like a reader but feels like a participant in the events happening in the poem. Diaz practically demonstrates that imagery and sound are important facets in poetry if a poet wants the reader to actually enjoy and connect with the events.

Works Cited

"It Was the Animals by Natalie Diaz."Poetry Foundation,

"My Brother My Wound by Natalie Diaz."Poetry Foundation,

Diaz, Natalie. When my brother was an Aztec. Copper Canyon Press, 2012.

Malan, Robin. New Poetry Works: A Workbook Anthology. New Africa Books, 2007.

December 12, 2023



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