Saturday, March 29, 2008

On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High by D. C. Berry

With this poem, the readers discovers so much before the poem itself it is even read just by simply knowing the title. The title here sets a foundation to what the reader should expect when reading the poem. One knows that the speaker is an outsider who coming to speak to the senior class and has no connection with the school. The reader also knows that the speaker is well-known for his speaking and very practiced in what he does based off the fact that he/she was invited to come. One also gets the sense that the speaker is not looking forward to speaking to the Senior class and feels that he/she is too mature for them. All of this is confirmed in the first stanza. He starts off with the line "Before/ I opened my mouth" (1-2) where he seems to have prepared himself for the stereotypical bored and indifferent faces of the seniors. He also refers to them as "frozen fish" highlighting the students unhappiness of being there. The third stanza of the poem, which is also the largest stanza hides the primary irony of the poem. In the line "and then I heard the sounds/ of fish in an aquarium" (10-11) it appears that the speaker is attempting to eliminate the students which comments on the fact that he is insecure reading in front of them. He feels that by having anything to do with the class, he feels he will be held back. He attempts to find delight in the poems he is reading to ignore this "tried to drown them with my words" (13-14). Unexpectedly however, the class "opened up" to what he was saying. The students simply want to be at the same place he is at while reading the poem. But because of the speaker's attitude towards them he does not see it that way. He feels that they are only doing this out of force, not because they want to. A transition occurs within the poem in stanza four, where the speaker and the students unite into a "we". They go through the experience of the poems together. Alliteration is seen here with the words "thirty tails" and "whacking words". The speaker shed his views of the students and because of this, he ventures into their world. He learned something in the art in which he supposedly mastered from people who he originally thought were ignorant. Even after the bell rang, and the students returned to their classes, he was left in awe and continued to be affected by the experience. This poem began with a terribly pessimistic outlook that ironically evolved into something completely unexpected.
I chose this poem because I liked the change in attitudes the author incorporated into it. The poem basically started out with a very experienced speaker called to read poems to his notion of ignorant high school students turns into a lesson where he learns that there is still room for him to learn things and this knowledge comes in many forms. I also liked how he used the title to set the foundation of the poem. His creative usage of other things, such as the fish reference instead of the students, also impressed me.

No comments: