Understanding through Reminiscing
The wonder behind a kaleidoscope lies in its ability to portray an array of different images. On a similar note, rather than images, John Reibetanz's 'Kaleidoscope' is a poem that exhibits a variety of childhood recollections and evokes a unique voice. The childlike, reminiscent voice from Reibetanz's 'Kaleidoscope' is demonstrated through the use of descriptive syntax, vivid imagery and the shift from a nostalgic to a pensive tone. This is ultimately a reflection of a child's inability to fully grasp the concept of death.
The poem's clever use of syntax is utilized in such a way that illustrates the author's recollections. The author employs many long, descriptive sentences to depict an event or memory. Rather than just a snapshot, the long length adds depth and meaning to each memory:
Clothespegged to the wheelframe, flapping against the spokes, a playing card became a motor for a bike (Reibetanz 5-8).
Although long and descriptive, the choice of words and sentence structure for stanza 2 6 are not necessarily convoluted. In fact, the sentences are clear and simple. This reflects the manner in which a child would describe their memories and refers back to a much simpler time. However, the 7th stanza and onwards presents a distinct, yet subtle change to the aforementioned syntax. The description of him laying on his bed is significantly longer and does not finish until he finishes picturing the death of his friend. This deliberate choice emphasizes this particular memory and informs the reader that despite the other memories, this one remains the engrained. In addition, the first awkward and slightly confusing phrasing comes about during this sequence: "who'd curled up on the ground/and looked like sleeping since" (Reibetanz 36 37). The variation in syntax emphasizes the passing of his friend, and coupled with the awkward phrasing, introduces the topic of death and evokes feelings of confusion surrounding it. Another intriguing aspect is the sudden inclusion of the pronoun, I, from the 7th stanza onwards. It further adds to the impression that the author repeatedly reminisces about the death of his friend and there remain questions concerning the topic of death. The choice of descriptive syntax adds depth and detail which elongates the events and pushes the idea that the voice of author is childlike and reminiscent. This voice serves as a reflection of the author's struggle to comprehend death when he was a child.
The choice of syntax interplays with another apparent feature that is woven throughout the poem: vivid imagery. In order to accurately paint the memories, the long sentences consist of literary devices such as metaphors. His descriptions of how "a playing card became/a motor for a bike" (Reibetanz 7-8) showcase one of the many fun, care-free memories of his childhood. His decision to incorporate an onomatopoeia "thwack" (Reibetanz 20) provides a scintillating image of playing stoopball. Even...