Incident in a Rose Garden Topics for Further Study
by Donald Justice

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Topics for Further Study

(Poetry for Students)

Interview your classmates, family, and friends about a time when they had a premonition of death. What similarities do you see in their stories?

Justice dedicated this poem to poet Mark Strand. Read Strand’s collection of poems Darker. Discuss similarities between the two poets’ representation and awareness of death.

Brainstorm a list of ways in which death is visually represented in contemporary art, film, writing, and culture. What gender is death? How old? Where and when does death usually appear? What can you conclude from these facts about society’s relationship with death?

Research what happens to the brain in the last minutes before death. Report your findings to your class.

Research the stories of those who have had near-death experiences. How have these people changed their lives as a result of the experience?

If you were told that you were going to die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day? Make an itinerary, right down to your last minute.

Continue the poem, writing one or two threeline stanzas in which the master replies to death. Then write another stanza or two in which Death responds. Try to get as close to Justice’s tone and style as possible.