“The Dark Cellar Door” is a poem loosely based on the author’s experiences as a child. The house he grew up in had a dark cellar where his mom stored canned foods. As a child, the narrator would have to head out in the dark to the cellar. The poem is based on those real events, plus the writer’s vivid imagination as a child. The poem ends with no ending, inviting children to use their own imaginations about what happens next.
The most inviting discussion for this poem is about what children think happens at the end of the poem. Our own son loved this poem but seemed frustrated that readers don’t know what happens at the end. Having students talk about how they think the story ends would be a great way to help engage them in the poem and use their imaginations.
- After reading the poem to children, have younger students draw a picture of what they think the narrator encountered when he finally made it to the cellar to get the beans.
- For older students, have them write a short story about what happens next in the poem. What does the narrator encounter? Give children the option of writing their story in poetic form instead of prose.
Using this poem as a starting point, as a class, research garden, canning, and cellars to provide context for the poem, especially for children who have not grown up in rural areas with gardening and farming. Ideally, children in more urban areas could visit a farm and/or watch a canning demonstration to show how food is preserved on many small farms and homesteads.