The Daily…ish

Poetry and Miscellany

  • Poem

    Men say they know many things;
    But lo! they have taken wings—
    The arts and sciences,
    And a thousand appliances;
    The wind that blows
    Is all that any body knows.

    ~ Henry David Thoreau

    (in context)

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More AP Poetry

Posted by Matthew on March 8, 2007

Today’s poem continues the series begun yesterday. Roethke‘s My Papa’s Waltz is another of the poems recently taught to a high school AP English class by a good friend of mine. I don’t remember reading this in high school, but I don’t really remember actually reading nearly as much as I was supposed to, so who knows whether it was in the mix or not.

Anyway, it is a very good poem, obviously, that paints a bittersweet scene: a blue-collar father (in the very least, a heavy drinker) dances with his child on his feet before putting the child to bed. Not a terrible lot going on, so I won’t attempt (rustily) an explication. My reaction to it, in the interest of accessibility, is that this is indeed a very good poem by which students might be exposed to poetic thinking. There is a simple rhyme scheme (though I can’t decide if rhyming is cool anymore, or again, or whatever) and a story that presents itself with clarity, but more importantly, it is a story most students can relate to. If not the alcoholism, at least the dancing on daddy’s feet.

If poetry is really dead, or even merely dying, poetry of this sort is of the variety that may be able to help matters. Of course, that’s only one opinion, which does little good. Exposure is the other major variable in the equation. Now, I don’t claim to know exactly what should comprise the accessibility of poetry, let alone the proper means of exposure, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts nothing’s going to get better without an improvement in both.

Poem: My Papa’s Waltz, by Theodore Roethke
Thoreau: March 8, 1857


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