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An Analysis of "On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High" by D.C. Berry

Updated on December 26, 2015
D.C. Berry
D.C. Berry

Text of "On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High"

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
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.


The imagery is beautiful in this poem. In my mind’s eye, I can picture this vivid “clay-mation” scene of all of the students morphing into brilliantly colored fish and frolicking around the room. That was an effective use of figurative language. It tied in well with the “frozen fish” (l. 4) reference, which also rings true. I’ve had the joyous opportunity to teach a class to my peers. I absolutely craved feedback and active participation, but frankly, that just doesn’t happen with teenagers (and especially not at 7 AM… and especially not when it is a Bible-study class, haha). As much as I do bounce around the classroom, I can make a pretty believable iced trout when I want to.

Relatable Phrasing

I can also relate to the “puncturing” (l. 21) of the door. When the bell rings, all thoughts of the previous class cease. One must consistently changing mental gears at school. I almost feel pity for the speaker. I could almost feel the speaker longing for the class to experience the joys of poetry. Despite all of the speaker’s efforts, the class appeared unresponsive. It’s an interesting phenomenon that one cannot hear what is happening under water, until one’s ears are submerged. The waves travel across the medium, but do not escape and vibrate through the air. Often, it’s difficult to discern the moods and opinions of other people, until you really listen closely.


Interestingly, the only punctuation in this piece where the three periods at the end of lines 5, 17, and 29. The sentences were also broken up and placed on different lines. This technique (when utilized correctly) allows the speaker to control exactly how the poem is to be read and understood. By separating certain sentences, the speaker can highlight phrases and manipulate the reader into reading it exactly how it is meant to be.

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