In “The Video”, Fleur Adcock approaches the feelings of a child shunted aside for a newborn sibling in a playful way; the poem features Ceri and her newest sibling, Laura, as well as their parents and the effect Laura’s birth has on the family dynamic. Ceri receives less attention than she is normally used to, as usually happens when a new baby arrives, and this is described in several instances in the poem, such as during the birth itself when Ceri’s dad tells her to “move over a bit.” It also reveals her mother to be “twice as busy”, leaving Ceri alone to play the tape of Laura’s birth in reverse, symbolically pushing her back into her mother as an expression of desire to return to the way things were before Laura arrived.
“My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke, on the other hand, details the experiences of a boy whose father comes home incredibly intoxicated and waltzes him to bed. The experience does not sound immediately abusive, if not uncomfortable, but through use of inherently negative diction in phrases such as “hung on like death”, the poem takes on an overall negative tone. The disapproval of the mother and casual tone of the son’s narration indicate that this event is a common occurrence in the household, though it seems that the father genuinely means well and simply wants to dance with his son before tucking him in. The description of his hands “caked hard by dirt” indicates a difficult physical career, one that most likely drives him to drink, though he loves his family.
While the first two poems we reviewed had cases of parents who didn’t realize their actions were harmful towards their children, “untitled” by Peter Meinke hails from the opposite end of the spectrum, and is a father’s lengthy apology to his son for all wrongdoings. He takes each time he has hurt his son personally and fully blames himself, though certain points in the poem indicate it was very much unintentional. When he says his son is “going on II”, it seems to indicate the son himself is having a child, and he offers this apology as an example of how parenting should be executed and the opportunity to succeed where he perceives that he failed.
For the event this week, I attended the Evergreen Players’ production of Our Good Country, which involved a crew of soldiers effectively attempting to “parent” convicts in a colony in Australia. Seeing as the colony in itself was a punishment, the convicts could be unruly, and were prone to immorality; adding to these already stressful conditions, no supply ships had come in a while, and unless another came within a few months, they would run out of food and other necessities. After virtually ignoring the need for a cohesive camp, just as Ceri’s parents felt no need to make sure Ceri still felt like part of the family, one officer suggested a play to keep the prisoners occupied and bring the camp together under the value of entertainment. The officers were usually more of the father figures depicted in “My Papa’s Waltz”; drunk, disorderly, and prone to roughing the colonists up, however unintentional. This one officer and his goal of uniting the camp under a play most resembled the father narrator of “untitled”, as he struggled to show the prisoners that, despite the example of the other guards and what may have happened in the past in the camp, he cared about the convicts and their well-being.