Papa Waltz

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Theodore Roethke (1908- 1963) – “Papa’s Waltz”


ENG 125

Instructor: Sara Keller

June 13, 2011

Theodore Roethke- “Papa’s Waltz”

There were many poems that I enjoyed in this week’s readings, however the poem by Theodora Roethke- “Papa’s Waltz is one that I found most interesting. The theme of this poem was the ambiguous nature of family relationships. The information that is being detailed about the father is what I found interesting. Also, the tone, form, content and language of the poem were appealing.

The form of the poem that I found most engaging was the unique way Roethke chose his words of rhythm. For instance, when describing the fathers hands Theodore Roethke- “Papa Waltz” (Clugston 2010, Ch. 10.5) – “The hand that held my wrist Was battered on one knuckle- At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle.” In my perspective, the author was stating that the father was a hard worker with rough and ashy hands. The son was just a boy (short) the saying- “at every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle”, (Clugston 2010, Ch. 10.5). This led me to believe that the child came to his father’s waist in height, which would explain why the boys’ right ear was being scraped whenever his father missed a step.

Roethke use many different languages, he emphasize his ideas and feelings to make his work more appealing and memorable (Clugston 2010). One that I found engaging was Theodore Roethke wording in this quote- “You beat time on my head With a palm caked hard by dirt Then waltzed me off to bed Still clinging to your shirt”,(Clugston 2010, Ch. 10.5). The language in this poem is not your every day speech, the quote “you beat time on my head,” in my opinion this means that the father was patting his son on the head with his hard hands.

The first time I read the poem, it made no sense to me. I believe I was most focus on the detail of the fathers’ hands. After rereading and thinking about what...
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