The three readings this week discussed different aspects of family life. “(Untitled)” and “My Papa’s Waltz” were grim tales about abuse, while “The Video” was a poem with a more humorous nature. Each of these poems uses different styles and techniques to help get their message across.
In the poem “(Untitled),” Peter Meinke is writing and apology to his son Peter. Though he never actually apologized in the poem, it is clear that the speaker is feeling very guilty for the way that he has been treating his son. The poem begins as free verse, and then begins to rhyme at the very end. I believe this is to change the train of thought. The beginning of the poem, the speaker is talking about the horrible manner in which he has treated his son. This switches towards the end when the speaker begins to discuss his true feelings for his son. Also, this poem uses only two (very long) sentences. I felt that this simulated the way that when a child is crying they try to fit all of their thoughts into just one breath.
“My Papa’s Waltz” is a similar story, but is told from the side of the son. Theodore Roethke uses “dancing” as an allusion to how his father would abuse him when he came home. Many people wrote that they felt that it was just sloppy drunken dancing, but I saw this poem in a completely different way. If the dance was in any way friendly, the poem would not start by stating “I hung on like death.” I feel that the mother is more than just disapproving of their dancing. She is miserable because her drunken husband comes home and beats her son. The father’s hand is battered on one knuckle because he has hit something. Possibly the wall, someone at the bar, or it could have even been his son. This shows that he is an angry drunk. “Beat time on my head” shows pretty clearly to me that the father was hitting the son. I do not feel like that is used in any sort of “friendly” connotation. At the end of the poem, the son is “waltzed off to bed,” and still “clinging” to his fathers shirt. I feel like he is clinging because he is so afraid of his father. That if he does not stay close enough his “Papa” could get a good shot in. This is the same way that boxers get really close when they are tired.
The poem “The Video” has a much lighter feel than the other two poems. Fluer Adcock tells us the story of a child being born, and gives us the humorous take on how the family conducts themselves. Everyone seems very excited about the baby at the time of birth. However, at the end of the poem, when mom is “twice as busy,” Ceri wants the baby to go back in. The rhyme scheme in this poem helped to get its humorous nature across.
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas I work at a soup kitchen called P.O.T.S. (Part of the Solution). While I am there I meet all kinds of people. “The Video” and “My Papa’s Waltz” reminded me of some of the people I have met during my time there. I have seen fathers crying watching their children eat because they could not provide for them. I have also seen men walk in at 11AM with their kids already smelling like alcohol.
The stories this week give great insight into the workings of three different families. All of these characters have been in some way strained, or have made some mistakes. The brutal nature of “(Untitled)” and “My Papa’s Waltz” is clearly darker than “The Video,” but as an oldest child I do feel Ceri’s pain. It is easy to get lost when there is so much going on around you, but the other two poems in this weeks reading have made me realize that things could be much worse.