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My Papa’s Waltz Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963). BACKGROUND ON THE POET Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Roethke was the son of a greenhouse owner. Greenhouses.

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Presentation on theme: "My Papa’s Waltz Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963). BACKGROUND ON THE POET Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Roethke was the son of a greenhouse owner. Greenhouses."— Presentation transcript:

1 My Papa’s Waltz Theodore Roethke (1908 – 1963)

2 BACKGROUND ON THE POET Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Roethke was the son of a greenhouse owner. Greenhouses figure prominently in the imagery of his poems. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan in 1929, where he also earned an M.A. in 1936 after graduate study at Harvard. He taught at several universities, coached two varsity tennis teams, and settled at the University of Washington in Intensely introspective and demanding of himself, Roethke was renowned as a great teacher, though sometimes incapacitated by an on-going manic-depressive condition.

3 … His collection The Waking: Poems , won the Pulitzer Prize in Other awards include Guggenheim Fellowships in 1945 and 1950, and a National Book Award and the Bollingen Prize in 1959 for Words for the Wind (1958).

4 Not about physical abuse!!! Roethke had a deep, almost religious respect for his father. This respect was religious (in a Christian sense) because Roethke had an admiration for his father’s ability, yet he was fearful of his strength. According to Malkoff, Roethke once saw his father bring a couple of poachers to a halt with his rifle and then go and slap their faces for interrupting his work. "Otto Roethke, a Prussian through and through, was strong and firm, but his strength was, for his son, a source of both admiration and fear, of comfort and restriction" (Malkoff 4).

5 … This fear, combined with the love and awe-inspired dependency that a son has for his father, comes out clearly in the poem.

6 TITLE My Papa’s Waltz Papa = Father Waltz = dance

7 LINE 1 & 2 The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; does not portray him as a stumbling drunk IRONY Emphasizes the irony of line 4. Playing around METER Speaker uses three-syllable and four-syllable patterns in the meter to emphasize the waltz: “The WHISkey on your BREATH / Could MAKE a small boy DIZzy.” slant rhymes Violence Young/literally small

8 LINE 3 & 4 But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. IRONY -Speaker’s father presents danger, he “hangs on” for dear life. The word death is thus ironic, it makes the danger of the situation clear. -The waltz should be easy, the speaker is just being swung around by his father. It isn’t easy because their lives together aren’t easy. ALLITERATION Gentle sound of the repeated “w” contrasts with simile about death in line 3 and with the characterization of the waltz as “not easy.” The alliteration makes the waltz sound natural and tranquil. SIMILE He was having fun and did not want to fall off DICTION (words) More precise ways to describe the dance, a child would not use a more sophisticated vocabulary. slant rhymes not "waltzing" in the conventional sense; they are horse-playing

9 LINE 3 & 4 But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. SIMILE Introduces death to emphasize the danger of the situation or the darker side of the “waltz”. Gives the child a power outside of human agency, which is the only way to have power over the father. Death “hangs on” in the sense that it is permanent, and perhaps the child wants to freeze this moment for fear of what will happen if he or she lets go. SYMBOL Someone must lead in a waltz - the father’s dominance over his child. It is not the fact that the child is being led, but instead the way the father is leading that makes the dance “not easy.”

10 LINE 5 & 6 We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; The word romped here is ironic because it makes the waltz sound carefree, yet the effect of this romping is to cause a violent, crashing disruption in their domestic world. slant rhymes To play in a happy and noisy way

11 LINE 7 & 8 My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself. ALLITERATION The sharp sound of the repeated “c” gives a hard edge to an otherwise graceful- sounding stanza. Brief description of the speaker’s mother is a warning, or signal of danger (like the same hard “c” in the parental command “careful!”) DICTION Signal a change in the poem: countenance is an unusual word for facial expression, unfrown is a made-up word. -Her disapproval of this scene and her apparent inability to do anything about it except scowl intensify the danger of the situation. -There is an audience for the tragedy. slant rhymes Could stop frowning if she chose to – angry because her pots and pans were flying around, but was really trying not to laugh at the spectacle of father and son dancing together.

12 LINE 9 & 10 The hand that held my wrist Was battered on one knuckle; Connotes violence. Battered is different from milder words like wounded. The father seems potentially violent. ALLITERATION Gentle protective sound of “hand... held,” in sharp contrast with battered knuckle and scraped ear that dominate the imagery of this stanza. Hand holding a wrist more aggressive and domineering than a hand holding a hand. 1. difference in size of their hands 2. child waltzes unwillingly Hand battered on one knuckle because of the hard work involved in running a greenhouse.

13 LINE 11 & 12 At every step you missed My right ear scraped a buckle. METER Second half of the poem does not precisely repeat the metrical pattern of the first half of the poem, suggests that the father misses some steps.

14 LINE 13 & 14 You beat time on my head With a palm caked hard by dirt, The word beat is rougher than kept (as in “kept time”), recalls the word battered of previous stanza. This hand is not only dirty but hard, more a club than a hand. Meter Word hard disrupts the poem’s otherwise perfect meter. The speaker has tried to render (save) his father’s dance but his father’s drunken missteps make it impossible to do so. hard work involved in running a greenhouse.

15 LINE 15 & 16 Then waltzed me off to bed Still clinging to your shirt. Breathless and happy after horsing around with his father, does not want to go to bed but desires to stay with him. Second half of the poem (line 9-16) is generally tougher, with short, hard-sounding words and true end rhyme (e.g. dirt-shirt) There are no slant rhymes here; the structure is less relaxed, which leaves the reader feeling tense and uneasy. SYMBOL Waltzed figuratively and literally, to bed. The poem indicates early on that the waltz is not easy, and yet it ends with the comfort and stability of bed.

16 WORD CHOICE (DICTION) INNOCENTVIOLENT Small Waltz Romped Bed Death Battered Hard Dirt Word order of the poem tends to move from light- hearted words (BEGINNING) to more ominous ones (END), the poem is too ambiguous to let us pass judgment so easily. The overall effect is to sway the reader’s emotions violently, as in a drunken waltz.


18 THEME Domestic violence Family relationships Love between father and child


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