Students read the poem "Demeter’s Prayer to Hades" by Rita Dove silently as it is projected on the screen. Every time I present a poem to my students I explain that poetry is written to be heard, that the ear may pick up on what the eyes do not. Therefore, the second read is my vocal interpretation of this poem’s tone and fervor. Whether you do or do not know the story of Demeter, how does the speaker’s tone strike you?
As a poem about mythology, the first quest is to ferret out all of the mythological allusions. Who are Demeter and Hades? What is the nature of their relationship? Consider presentation of the myth as a paired text.
What if we take the mythology out of it? Is this not a mortal scenario?
If someone has wronged us, don’t we wish that they could have “knowledge” of the impact they have had?
Still, the poem does speak of both gods and mortals. Being a deity in mythology does not mean you are without flaws, and worshipping the gods means believing in those who are subject to the
weaknesses of man.
What are the consequences for anyone who attempts to “play god?"
This poem invites rich discussion and deep thinking about our own lives and the power of allusion.
Elizabeth Howlett is a seventh grade ELA teacher in San Antonio, Texas.