by Brett Vogelsinger
Gabriel Fried's poem, "Twilight Field" establishes a delightfully creepy mood with simple langauge and one short stanza:
The spirits play a children's game;
they pose as trees in clover.
I look. They stay. I look. They stay.
I look again. They're closer.
The second read of this poem demands a choral reading from the class, which adds to the sinister overtones. And if a student just happens to be open the door and come in late as you read the last word of the poem together as a class . . . well that's just perfect! For me, this poem catpures that feeling we can sometimes experience when alone with nature, that something is watching us or drawing near, for in nature, we are never entirely in solitude. (Note: The Dr. Who fans in your class will impulsively want to point out a connection to The Weeping Angels at this point as well!)
I use this poem on days when I want to maintain my Poem of the Day routine, but I have limited time. I write this statement on the board: "This poem has an excellent example of 'near rhyme.'"
After two readings, I ask students to defend this statement, even if they have never heard of "near rhyme" before. In each class, someone is able to infer what that term must mean, and the student points out that "clover" and "closer" seem to rhyme, but do not excatly rhyme, and the repeated "a" sound (assonance) in "game" and "stay" create a similar effect.
While I do not make it a formal homework assignment, I invite students to pay attention to the lyrics the next time they listen to their favorite music. Where in the lyrics can they spot an example of near rhyme? Songwriters often employ near rhyme in order to fit the needed ideas within the rhythm of the music without compromising the overall rhyme scheme. Put to music, near rhymes sound even more like real rhymes.
While literary terms can be dry when learned in isolation, taught in the context of a quick, enjoyable poem and favorite music they seem far less daunting.
For another Gabriel Fried poem to share, see this post from last year's collection.
Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth-grade English teacher at Holicong Middle School in Bucks County, PA. He has been starting class with a poem each day for the past six years and is the creator of the Go Poems blog to share poetry reading and writing ideas with teachers around the world. Find him on Twitter @theVogelman.