A tin roof floats above a sea of jade threads.
Pine trees creak like old men’s rocking chairs.
A figure drifts into light.
Shadows spill through the kitchen door.
Dishes rattle. A woman laughs.
Hank is on the radio.
A baritone sings half the words; a woman joins him
and they hum the rest.
The lights go out. The radio goes low.
Two people waltz around a darkened room.
Mist drops down. A screen door softly slaps.
The porch-swing chains groan helplessly.
from her book The Scholar’s Daughter
Louisiana Literature Press, 2008
Used by permission of the poet.
Lesson Plan for Denise Roger’s “Emerging from a Wood, I find Myself in the Field Behind My Grandparents’ Old House”
by Gina Ferrara
This poem is written after the great, 8th century poet Tu Fu. Tu Fu traveled the countryside writing poems of observance that emphasized the beauty of nature. Rogers’ poem describes arriving at the her grandparents’ old house and observing the domestic life inside. Rogers’ wastes no time in making the house a beautiful part of the natural world by her description of the house in the poem’s first two lines. Although the house is one that is familiar to Rogers, the people who are inside remain anonymous. This dynamic keeps Rogers in the Tu Fu’s role of traveler, observer and chronicler.
I like this poem because of the picture it creates. I think the poem is easy to visualize because of the poet’s’ use of verbs. To me, the success of the poem isn’t because of the descriptive words, it’s because of the verbs; many of the verbs have more to do with sound than anything visual. I think this shows how a heightened sense of hearing can often compensate for someone who is visually impaired. What we hear in the poem helps us readily see what Denise has written.
The following lesson is for middle school students.
Have the students read the poem silently. Then, ask for three or four volunteers to read the poem aloud.
Discuss the purpose of verbs. Talk about the present tense and the active voice. Ask how the poem might be different if the poet had written the poem in the past tense.
Ask the students to make a list of all of the verbs that are in the poem.
Then, have them categorize the verbs into those actions that make noise and those that do not.
Discuss meanings of these words and what these words create in the poem.
Have the students write am and pm poems about their house. Suggest that they pick the same numeric hour and write about those times–midnight/noon, 8 am/8 pm, etc. Stress the importance of using contrasting words to show how and why the house is different. Challenge the students to use some of the verbs that Rogers used. Have them read and share their work.
by Nancy Jaynes
Read the poem aloud, then ask, “What’s going on here? What’s happening in this poem?”
After discussion, I’d ask the students to try tro identify the mood of the poem. I’d ask them to determine what contributes to the mood that they pick up on. I would point out the ordinary stuff in the poem— illustrated with very general nouns (“dishes” vs., say “Blue Willow china dishes”), and how they contrast with the very specific verbs (“drift,” “rattle,” “groan”). In fact, I’d take these specific verbs and ask them what holiday they associate with those words, “drift,” “rattle,” and “groan.” I’d lead them to see that it creates a slightly spooky mood. I’d point out the personification in the last line, with the chains of the porch swing groaning helplessly.
Read the poem aloud again. Again, I’d ask, “So— what’s going on here? What do you get now that you might have missed at first reading?”
I’d ask, “So, who was Tu Fu? What does this mean when the poet says ‘After Tu Fu’? Have we written any poems “after” another, more famous poem? (I’d point out several poems we’ve read as models.)
Could artwork or music also be said to be “after” another such piece or do you think it’s just used in poetry?” We would then do some exploration of such attributions in the arts. I would also find examples of Tu Fu’s poetry for the students to read for comparison’s sake. I might begin with “Day’s End.”
by Margaret Simon
The form that Denise Rogers uses for her poem is simple, subject/verb. “Dishes rattle. A woman laughs.” From these short sentences, she creates a scene from the past of a home that she either recalls from her childhood or imagines from stories she has heard.
Have students bring in old family photographs or provide old photographs for students to use. Look at the photo and imagine the scene that is taking place. Try out Rogers’ form by using simple phrases in groups of two lines that do not rhyme and draw a picture of the action in the scene.
Discuss the simile found in the first stanza, “Pine trees creak like old men’s rocking chairs.” Ask students to try at least one simile in their own poem.
Discuss the title of this poem, “Emerging from a Wood, I find Myself in the Field Behind My Grandparents’ Old House.” Discuss reasons that Ms. Rogers might give for using this long title. What purpose does it serve in understanding the poem? Have students look at their own poems about the chosen photograph. What title might help the reader understand the poet’s viewpoint?