On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High
In his poem, “On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High”, the author, David Chapman Berry, has relied on metaphors and similes to carry out his view of a typical literature class and a teacher’s view of teaching.


The setting of the poem is in a senior literature class, at South High School. The speaker in this poem is a teacher, who tells the reader about his or her students and about the course of his or her literature class. The teacher discusses poetry with his class, but at the same time compares the students and the classroom order to fish in an aquarium.


The poem consists of seven stanzas. The first stanza states how the teacher enters the classroom and finds his or her students, orderly situated in their seats, where he or she uses a simile to compare them to frozen fish in a package. The second stanza holds the first metaphor. From the eyes of the teacher, the room starts to slowly fill with water, but he did not notice



this until it reached his ears. What really happens here is that the teacher simply follows his or her regular teaching procedures in a monotone way until he or she suddenly notices that these students are interested in what he or she has to say. Thus, the water, which fills the room, is nothing else than the student’s unexpected attention to the poetry. In the third stanza the speaker uses a metaphor, an overstatement, and a simile, to describe the change of mood and situation. At this point, the mood has changed completely. The teacher says her or she can hear the sound of fish in an aquarium. This metaphor means, that he or she not only has the student’s attention, but that they are also willing to discuss the poem with the teacher. The speaker is surprised, for he or she had tried to drown them with words. This is an overstatement, which really holds that the teacher was simply lecturing to his class, and not expecting to receive this kind of reaction. He or she states that the students opened up like gills. This simile describes the student’s thirst for knowledge. The students were interested in what he had to teach and they were willing to learn. The fourth stanza completes the idea of the classroom as an aquarium, using a simile and an overstatement. The speaker visualizes how he or she and the students, as fish, swim together throwing words through the room with their tails. With this simile, the speaker is trying to say, that he or she has gotten through to the students. The students and the teacher are working together on discussing a poem. The tone of the poem sounds rather joyful at this point. Then the bell rings, and punctures a hole in the door. Again the speaker uses an overstatement, to describe how the bell means the end of the class session, and the attention is directed to the door of the classroom. The fifth stanza is a single line metaphor, which states the order of students leaving the classroom when the bell rings. In the sixth stanza the students go to their next class and the teacher goes home. At this point, there is another change in mood. The tone of the poem has become melancholic. The seventh, and final stanza holds that the speaker turns back into his or her human shape after arriving at home. This is the end of the metaphor, for he or she adapts to his human features again. Also in this last stanza, the speaker is alluding his or her cat’s name to a figure in history, Queen Elizabeth.


The author uses two assonances in one line; line nineteen, which draws our attention to the harmony that has built up through out the course of the poem between the students and the teacher. The speaker also uses imagery to appeal to the reader’s senses. The speaker uses words like “opened,” ”reached,” ”drown,” ”puncturing,” etc. The whole poem could be considered an analogy though, for the speaker compares the classroom behavior to the behavior of fish