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On Reading Poems to a
Senior Class at South
High
Poem by D. C Berry
Presentation by Alyssa Moore
Full Poem
Before
I opened my mouth
I noticed them sitting there
as orderly as frozen fish
in a package.
Slowly water began...
Full Poem Context
• We presume the speaker is a teacher, or guest speaker in a
senior classroom, probably Berry herself.
•...
Stanza 1
Before
I opened my mouth
I noticed them sitting
there
as orderly as frozen fish
in a package.
1. Enjambment (all ...
Stanza 2
Slowly water began to fill the room
Though I did not notice it
till it reached
my ears.
Here, Berry dives more in...
Stanza 3
and then I heard the sounds
of fish in an aquarium
and I knew that though I had
tried to drown them
with my words...
Stanza 4
Together we swam around the room
like thirty tails whacking words
till the bell rang
puncturing
a hole in the doo...
Stanza 4 (cont.)
There are interesting literary elements
in this stanza as well, including
alliteration (“thirty tails”, “...
Stanza 5
They went to another class
I suppose and I home
It is at this point that the students leave the
class and the spe...
Stanza 6
where Queen Elizabeth
my cat met me
and licked my fins
till they were hands again
The speaker returns home, retur...
Conclusion
The poem, “On Reading Poems to a Senior Class
at South High” demonstrates the speaker’s anxiety
of having to te...
Conclusion (cont.)
The use of water to depict tension is realized
through the representation of students as
fish. The stud...
Definition Conclusion
My favorite poet, Emily Dickinson once said “If I read a book and it
makes my whole body so cold no ...
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On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High- Final

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This is a poem analysis of "On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High" by DC Berry for AP English, Period 2, Ms. Kramer. This contains the final draft.

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On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High- Final

  1. 1. On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High Poem by D. C Berry Presentation by Alyssa Moore
  2. 2. Full Poem Before I opened my mouth I noticed them sitting there as orderly as frozen fish in a package. Slowly water began to fill the room though I did not notice it till it reached my ears and then I heard the sounds of fish in an aquarium and I knew that though I had tried to drown them with my words that they had only opened up like gills for them and let me in. Together we swam around the room like thirty tails whacking words till the bell rang puncturing a hole in the door where we all leaked out They went to another class I suppose and I home where Queen Elizabeth my cat met me and licked my fins till they were hands again.
  3. 3. Full Poem Context • We presume the speaker is a teacher, or guest speaker in a senior classroom, probably Berry herself. • The speaker is reading the poems to the class, and throughout compares them to fish in a fish tank (extended metaphor). • The poem is in first person, with mainly past tense throughout. • The poem has no set structure or rhyme scheme. • The tone fluctuates between tenacity and intrigue. • The imagery is very water and fish related, due to the extended metaphor
  4. 4. Stanza 1 Before I opened my mouth I noticed them sitting there as orderly as frozen fish in a package. 1. Enjambment (all lines) 2. Allusion to popular cliche phrases (below) 3. Comparison 1. The school is a “school of fish” 2. The students are so close they are like packaged/ordered like “sardines in a can” Berry writes that she “noticed them sitting there”. This shows her intellectual distance to the students at the start of the poem.
  5. 5. Stanza 2 Slowly water began to fill the room Though I did not notice it till it reached my ears. Here, Berry dives more into the fish metaphor. The noise and level of interest the students show is represented by water imagery. She doesn’t notice the flooding in the room, which creates a feeling of tension in the reader. The speaker is overcome with anxiety of reading to the class, so she doesn’t notice that the students are actually listening and eager to hear her. This is reflective of the silence of being underwater. The silence reached her ears, which makes her feel like she is drowning in anxiety, but there is no reason to be.
  6. 6. Stanza 3 and then I heard the sounds of fish in an aquarium and I knew that though I had tried to drown them with my words that they had only opened up like gills for them and let me in. The simile of “opened up like gills for them and let me in” demonstrates the students connecting to the speaker. It could also be significant that gills allow fish to breathe, and the students in a similar way are allowing the speaker to relieve her tension. The realization of relief is also seen in the first line, comparing the sounds and ideas of the students to fish in an aquarium. They are interesting, moving, and, in a sense, connected together. The speaker previously believed they wouldn’t be engaged, and had been prepared with her own ideas, which explains lines 3-5. She had been ready to drown them out, override their opinions, but was pleasantly surprised.
  7. 7. Stanza 4 Together we swam around the room like thirty tails whacking words till the bell rang puncturing a hole in the door where we all leaked out This stanza shifts tone, the speaker being pleasantly surprised and enjoying the discussion with the class. This stanza leaks into a separated line to create an exaggeration opposed to the rest of the poem and a sense of unfulfillment in the reader. At this point, the speaker feels at ease with the class and is excited about their dialogue, comparing the exchanges to fish rapidly swimming around. Yet, they all leak out quickly and easily because of the bell, signaling its time to leave. The image of “leaking out” implies that it was involuntary, and that the speaker is disappointed. This is contrast to the earlier tone of fear because of the exchanges, to sadness that it is over. It’s also interesting that the speaker leaks out with the students, no longer distancing herself from the group.
  8. 8. Stanza 4 (cont.) There are interesting literary elements in this stanza as well, including alliteration (“thirty tails”, “whacking words”), and diction (puncturing is meant to disrupt the class, such as the word disrupts the poem).
  9. 9. Stanza 5 They went to another class I suppose and I home It is at this point that the students leave the class and the speaker leaves the room as well. Momentarily connected, they now depart one another without any knowledge of the other’s lives. The speaker returns to her normal life and has no more purpose in their lives. The fish are once again grouped together in her mind, and she is no longer a part of their group. She distances herself from them again.
  10. 10. Stanza 6 where Queen Elizabeth my cat met me and licked my fins till they were hands again The speaker returns home, returns to normalcy, but still feels somehow connected to the students of the day. The cat licking her “fins” signifies the emotional significance the day had for her, but the true nature of her distance between her life and those of the students. Irony: the speaker’s cat is the one distinguishing her from the “fish” at the school, yet cats usually would eat fish.
  11. 11. Conclusion The poem, “On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High” demonstrates the speaker’s anxiety of having to teach high schoolers poetry. Through their engagement and listening, she warms up to them and feels connected to them, like a part of the group. When the class ends, she is daunted by the swift disconnection they have once again. She returns home, realizing that she is not a student and cannot be like them completely, yet can be let into their world every now and then, and she can be a part of their lives if only for a class period.
  12. 12. Conclusion (cont.) The use of water to depict tension is realized through the representation of students as fish. The students, like fish, are rapid moving, and have little connection to anything other than one another. Though the speaker tries to become like they are, she ultimately knows by the end that she is human, and she is different.
  13. 13. Definition Conclusion My favorite poet, Emily Dickinson once said “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”. Based on this definition, I believe "On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High" not to be a great work of poetry. Though it connects deeply to the speaker and has a lot of hidden meaning and symbolism, it does not strike me as passionate and as chilling as Dickinson might describe it.

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