Study Guide

How I Got That Name Sound Check

By Marilyn Chin

Sound Check

Given that this is a poem written in free verse, it has a very conversational ring to it. Not only that, but the language is simple and clear. It sounds like our friend is just chatting to us. Lines like "How we've managed to fool the experts/ in education, statistic and demography—/ We're not very creative but not adverse to rote-learning" sound like prose, not poetry (38-40).

But just because the poem has a chatty sound to it doesn't mean that it isn't full of poetic sound stylings, too. Lines like "The further west we go, we'll hit east;/ the deeper down we dig, we'll find China" are full of alliteration, for example. In these two lines, there's a lot of repetition of the W and D sounds. In this regard the poem strikes a balance between a conversational and a poetic tone. And balance, in a whole mess of ways (familial, cultural, personal, etc.), is what this poem is all about.

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