D.C. Berry's On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High
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 interruptions. For example, the second and third stanzas are made up by one long run-on sentence. The lack of punctuation in this section causes the reader to read at a faster pace. The capitalization of the word They in line 24 implies that the preceding line was the end of an idea; however, the preceding line does not contain any punctuation. Finally, the capitalization of the words "Queen Elizabeth" draws attention to the only proper name in the poem. The name presents a contrast between the human image of the cat and the animal images of the students. The students draw the teacher into their animal world, while the cat draws the teacher back into the human world.
The poem does not have a standard rhyme scheme or meter, but it is not totally devoid of rhythm. The repetition of the word till helps to unify the three main sections of the poem: before, during, and after the poetry reading. The teacher's reading is at a standstill until the first instance of the word till in line 8: "till it reached my ears." The speaker gains much momentum immediately afterwards, and the pace is quickened until the next instance: "till the bell rang." Finally, the pace slows down and is restored to its original rhythm...