The formal aspects and figures of speech used in Gervais Phinn’s poem “Creative Writing” include the following:
- Alliteration, or the repetition of similar-sounding consonants, as, for example, in line 1: “My story on Monday began . . . .”
- Vivid imagery, as in line 2: “Mountainous seas crashed on the cliffs.” See also lines 6-8 and other “middle lines” of the stanzas.
- Assonance, or repetition of similar-sounding vowels, as in the “And” and “land” and “desolate” and “wetter” of line 3.
- Internal rhyme, as in the “And” and “land” of line 3 and the “wrote” and “note” of line 4.
- Irony, as in the deflating, dispiriting comments written by the teacher at the end of each stanza. The continual undercutting of the speaker’s work by the teacher’s comments is part of the formal design of the poem; it occurs in every full stanza.
- A refrain, as in the phrase “The teacher wrote a little note,” which is used five times.
- Near rhymes, as in “path” and “paragraph” in the third stanza.
- Full rhymes, as in lines 6-9:
Red tongues of fire,
Licked higher and higher
From smoking Etna's top ...
The teacher wrote a little note: Where is your full stop?
- Juxtaposition, as in the contrasts between the imaginative phrasing in the middle of each full stanza and the unimaginative comments made by the teacher.
- Anti-climax, as in the last two lines of the poem.