In "On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High" by D.C. Berry, the author vividly portrays the interactive experience of a poetry reading between a senior high school class and its teacher. The event is compared to a school of fish excitedly swimming around an aquarium until a sudden rupture in the aquarium causes everyone to "leak out." Berry uses form, sound devices, and poetic devices to enhance the different levels of excitement and interaction throughout the poetry reading.
The nontraditional form of the poem with regard to stanzas, capitalization and punctuation, and rhyme scheme and meter, helps create a sensation of free-flowing water within a somewhat structured environment. The lengths of the stanzas reflect the changing pace of running water and the running monologue of the teacher. The first two stanzas are of average length because the water and speech have just begun to flow. The water rushes at a very fast pace as the students begin to show interest; this is reflected in an eight-lined stanza, the longest one in the poem. The highest level of interaction between the teacher and the students is in the fourth stanza which describes "thirty tails whacking words;" however, this stanza is cut short as the bell interrupts the teacher's speech. The water feebly drips in the fifth and sixth stanzas as the teacher no longer speaks, and all the excitement is gone. Finally, the last four-lined stanza restores the teacher to his original position because it is equal in length to the second stanza when the teacher begins his reading.
Nonstandard capitalization and punctuation further enhance the easy flow of the words with few ...
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... also be seen as examples of metonymy within the context of describing the students as fish. In the first simile, the students are specifically referred to as the gills of a fish (instead of the whole fish) to emphasize their dependency on water. In the second simile, the class and the teacher are characterized as the tails of a fish to emphasize their active movement within the water and their interaction with the other fish.
Therefore, the poetry reading is vividly portrayed as a school of fish actively and eagerly exploring their aquatic environment. This characterization of the students is a pun because there is an implied play on words between a high school class and a school of fish. Elements of form, sound devices, and poetic devices are essential to achieving this unique depiction of the poetry reading as an exciting and stimulating experience.
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