Essay on What Makes A Potato? What Is An Onion?

1198 Words Nov 19th, 2015 null Page
What is a potato? What is an onion? Every individual’s response to these questions will be different because food takes on an incredible richness of meaning as we collect memories. Every experience adds color to our idea of food, be they pleasant or traumatic. Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to the Onion” and Richard Wilbur’s “Potato” both deal with the same concept - the effect of circumstances on their perception of food - yet arrive at quite different conclusions. The poems are nearly complete opposites with opposing structure and viewpoints, therefore the extremes of the two poems are easily visible when reading side by side. Both poems illustrate the internal bias towards a food stemming from necessity or desperation, yet Wilbur vehemently rejects the positive bias towards the potato while Neruda happily dons his rose-colored glasses. This divergence in attitude towards what are essentially equivalent root vegetables is quite telling of each poet’s psyche.
Even when ignoring content, these differing mindsets are visible in a study of the structure only: “Potato” is pragmatic, more akin to a treatise than an ode or celebration of his subject, while “Ode to the Onion” addresses the onion directly, even intimately. Neruda’s “Ode to the Onion” wanders in an informal and pleasing fashion, with lines that vary greatly in length and stanzas of 31, 14 or even 2 lines while Wilbur’s “Potato” has a very clearly defined form, with stanzas consisting of 3 lines each, all of a similar length,…

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