What is the tone in the Dana Gioia poem, "Money"

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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"Money" is a poem by New Formalist and well-renowned "Renaissance Man", businessman and poet Michael Dana Gioia. It was published first in 1991 under the Poet's Prize-winning collectionThe Gods of Winter.

The tone of the poem "Money" is ironic, sarcastic, and pejorative. This is because the main idea is to adulterate the general importance of money, and to place it under a different perspective: money is still alluded to as it stands on its high social pedestal, but the poet "manhandles", and mangles it by using colloquial, simple, and unintelligent language. This is a way to "cheapen" the value of  money.

Chock it up, fork it over,
shell it out. Watch it
burn holes through pockets

While the poet maintains that money does matter, the tone of the poet's voice also maintains that money only becomes important when it is needed. On its own, money is nothing.

Money. You don't know where it's been,
but you put it where your mouth is.
And it talks.

Goia also gives it a sense of morbidity when he describes the actual activity of money in a way that almost resembles the reproduction of something unnatural

Money breeds money.
Gathering interest, compounding daily.
Always in circulation

Overall, the main thing is that Gioia does treat money as a cheap thing that has no value of its own. For this reason, we encounter words that are petulant, insulting and sarcastic such as "the long green cash","stash", "rhino", "jack", and "just plain dough". It is basically a way to laugh at the sad reality: money is an enabler and our inner demons are quite attracted to it. That is a combination that cheapens and sometimes ruins our human reality. Money, on its own, is nothing.

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