The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Remedies, Maladies, Reasons” is written in a loose iambic pentameter form and is composed of fifty-eight couplets that rhyme obliquely. The last line in the poem, which rhymes with the previous couplet, stands alone. There are three sections in the poem: The first thirty-six couplets form the first part; couplets 37 through 58 compose the second; and the single concluding line is a separate section of its own. The title serves as a synopsis of the poem: The speaker searches for reasons why her mother was so obsessed with her daughter’s and her own physical maladies, and she wonders, in part, whether her mother’s remedies were effective.

Mona Van Duyn and her mother are placed at the center of this lyric poem written in the conventional first person. This is not a persona poem; the speaker is the poet, and she is reflecting on her own past. The first section records chronologically Van Duyn’s personal history, but the history is limited to the speaker’s health and how the mother and daughter respond to it. The first sentence explains the dilemma: Van Duyn “nearly died/ at six weeks from nursing a serum” her mother had taken, so her mother becomes extremely overprotective of her, even when she grows up. “Girl Scouts, green apples, tree climbs, fairs,” everything the “other kids” enjoyed, were off limits to her. Van Duyn describes herself as her mother’s “one goose” that refused “to fatten” despite her mother’s attempts...

(The entire section is 588 words.)