Reading Between the Lines: My Papa’s Waltz and Mending Wall

Theodore Roethke – My Papa’s Waltz

Being easily one of the most misunderstood poems in the history of American poetry, My Papa’s Waltz is appealing to the general audience in many ways. Personally, I like the poem for several reasons, one of them being the atmosphere that the given poem creates: “You beat time on my head/With a palm caked hard by dirt,/Then waltzed me off to bed/Still clinging to your shirt” (Roethke lines 13–16). Although the idea of a father getting drunk rubs me the wrong way, I definitely like the relationships between the members of this family, with no one getting mad at the head of the family because of his indecent conduct and look; instead, they take care of each other, probably, leaving the moralizing to “the morning after the night before” (Roethke).

Langston Hughes – Negro Speaks the River

Another great poem that is worth being discussed is Hughes’ Negro Speaks the River. In contrast to the previous poem, the given one does not have a single image or concept that attracts me; instead, I am delighted by the structure of the poem, as well as its pace, rather slow and thoughtful, which adds bitterness to the poem. Finally, the vivid metaphors, such as “the singing of the Mississippi” (Hughes) soften the “rough edges” of the poem, which I also find very attractive.

Edna Vincent S. T. Millay – What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and When and Why

As for Millay’s sonnet, I like the symbolism in the poem. The “lonely tree” (Millay), which is waiting for the spring to come and is not aware of the fact that birds no longer visit it, seems especially touching and graphic, reminding not only about the love that is no more but also about death. The given metaphor is very appealing to me because it can be read in a number of ways. The tree may symbolize a lonely person (the most obvious interpretation), a dying person, the problem of two people parting, etc. The fact that so many ideas can be read into the poem fascinates me.

Robert Frost – Mending Wall

Frost takes his readers to the world of conflict to explain everything that is wrong with enmity among the neighbors. The given interpretation might be considered somewhat on-the-surface; indeed, Frost’s argument seems deeper than a blank statement of peace as the ultimate goal. However, after looking closer at the poem, I realized that it used a very simple and, quite frankly, rather worn-out trope. Personally, I dislike the obvious, on-the-nose moral of the story being shoved into the reader’s face. The author’s intention, was, no doubt, good, and Frost clearly strived for a good cause, yet he might have been trying too much.

Robert Frost – The Axe Helve

Another Frost’s poem, The Axe Helve, also seems to suffer from the same issue, yet, to the author’s credit, in the given poem, it is less tangible. However, it seemed strange to me that the ax helve was chosen as the focus of the poem. I understand that the author builds a huge metaphor around this ax helve, but after a while, the reader gets tired of metaphors. Personally, I was hyped to find out that the author and the Baptiste finally had a talk that they could share with the reader: “Do you know, what we talked about was knowledge?” (Frost) Ironically, the author never shared a single line with the reader from his talk with the Baptiste.

Edwin Arlington Robinson – Miniver Cheevy

Finally, reading Robinson’s Miniver Cheevy, I was very upset by the fact that the author never tells the back-story of the character. It is understood that he lives in the past, yet Robinson never explains what made him that way and why he is unwilling to live in the present. Meanwhile, I believe that this would have been a very enticing story. A minor nitpicks, it still frustrates me.

Works Cited

Frost, Robert. Mending Wall. 1914. Web.

Frost, Robert. The Axe Helve. n. d. Web.

Hughes, Langston. Negro Speaks the River. 1921. Web.

Millay, Edna Vincent S. T. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, and When and Why. 1956. Web.

Robinson, Edwin Arlington. Miniver Cheevy. 1910. Web.

Roethke, Theodore. My Papa’s Waltz. 1961. Web.