What are some figures of speech used in the poem by Gervase Phinn titled "Creative Writing"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In his poem titled “Creative Writing,” Gervase Phinn employs a number of figures of speech and other devices of literary form, including the following:

Figures of speech that are word schemes:

  • Repetition, as in the first lines of all the stanzas.
  • Contrast, as in the repetitive opening lines of the stanzas and the vivid middle lines of the stanzas.
  • Metrical emphasis, often through departures from an expected metrical pattern, as in these heavily emphasized words from line 10: "dark, pine scented woods."
  • Alliteration, or the repetition of sounds, usually consonant sounds, as in lines 1-2:

My story on Monday began:
Mountainous seas crashed on the cliffs . . .

Figures of speech that are tropes:

  • Irony, as in the relations between the middle two lines of each stanza and the last line of each stanza.
  • Metaphors, as in the reference to "Red tongues of fire" in line 6.
  • Ultimate irony, as in the way the final stanza suggests the final defeat of the writer’s creativity and a final victory for the teacher’s prosaic dullness and concern with mere stale conventions.

Other Devices of Literary Form:

  • Vivid adjectives, as in line three: And the desolate land grew wetter ...
  • Emphatic variations in line lengths, as in the line that follows the one just quoted: “The teacher wrote a little note: Remember the capital letter!”  Here the much longer line that ends the stanza helps contrast the voice of the speaker with the voice of the teacher.
  • Contrasts in language and tone, as in lines 2-3 and 1 and 4.  Lines 1 and 4 are plain and prosaic; lines 2-3 are striking and memorable. In contrast to lines 2-3, line 4 is deflating and ironically bland.
  • Imagery, as in the line just quoted.
  • Vivid verbs, as in "twists" in line 11.

The poem is a satire – at once comic and sad – on the ways that teaching can sometimes kill the interest of students and on the ways that teachers, rather than inspiring and encouraging students, can often destroy their self-confidence and interest.

For an especially helpful discussion of this poem, see the "Heinemann.com" link below.

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