I Never Knew I Loved Dean Rader

by Dean Rader

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: After

Step 1

Start by reading Ocean Vuong’s “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong.” Then simply discuss the content and intent of the poem.

Step 2

Read “I Never Knew I Loved Dean Rader,” a poem inspired by and written in response to several poems, including the one you just read from Ocean Vuong. While reading, ask them to pay attention to the similarities between Rader and Vuong’s poems.

Step 3

Say, “Think of specific parts of the poem that resonated with you. Why did those parts of the poem stand out? What did or does it make you think of? How do they reflect to your own life or experiences?” Then give your students 5-10 minutes to brainstorm.

Step 4

Have your students write a “response” poem to “I Never Knew I Loved Dean Rader.” Their poem should be similar in style, content, or tone as that of Dean Rader’s poem, much like his poem was to Ocean Vuong’s.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Various

Step 1

This lesson allows students to analyze various concepts and skills, so it is recommended that you have covered several of the “standalone” lessons before assigning this one. The prominent literary devices & techniques that this particular poem includes are figurative language, imagery, syntax, line breaks, structure, tone, and selection of detail.

Step 2

Start by simply showing them a video of Jamaal May’s poem “There are Birds Here.”

Step 3

Now project the poem “There is a Lake Here” by Clint Smith and read it aloud to your students. Make sure you read the “After Jamaal May” dedication at the beginning. When you’re done, have your students briefly discuss how the two poems are similar to one another, both structurally and conceptually.

Step 4

Introduce the concept of a “response poem” to your students. Say, “A response poem is a poem written to, inspired by, in agreement with, in disagreement with, or ‘in conversation’ with an existing poem.” Then tell your students that they will – just like they did with Jamaal May and Clint Smith’s poem – read through a “response poem” and determine how it was inspired by the original source.

Step 5

Have your students open the following document and go over the introduction and directions with them. In this assignment, your students are going to read “I Never Knew I Loved Dean Rader” by Dean Rader and analyze how the poem pays homage to the four poems/poets that inspired the work. Then give your students time to work on the assignment.

Step 6

When your students are done, have them share their responses with one another. It may help if you went through each of the four original poems and have them all discuss the line(s) that they chose that pay homage to each poem.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Various


  • Aging
  • Appreciation
  • Body / Body Image
  • Children / Youth
  • Creativity / Imagination / Writing
  • Death / Grief
  • Education Formal / Informal
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Health / Health Care / Illness
  • History
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Parenting
  • Philosophy

Literary Tags

  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure
  • Structure (Line Breaks)
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone