Instructors’ Teaching Experience

Because it’s easy to argue that this poem is about an abusive father and it’s also easy to argue that it isn’t, this poem lends itself to talking about word choice and tone. Students also seemed to enjoy it because it wasn’t the kind of “confusing” poem they tend to be afraid of. Given that they felt comfortable with the language of the poem, it allowed us to talk about how ambiguity is different than confusion and how the poem accomplished creating that ambiguity. [Stephanie Goehring,]

Classroom Strategies

I didn’t use this strategy yet, but I might next semester because it worked well with other texts, and I think “My Papa’s Waltz” is perfect for it. This poem would be good for dividing the class into groups and having them build arguments for whether the father is abusive or isn’t.

A strategy I did use for this poem was listening to Roethke read it. (He starts reading around 6:44). I think the students enjoyed hearing the poet read his own work, and we also were able to talk about whether we thought Roethke’s reading supported the idea of the father being abusive or if it didn’t support it.[Stephanie Goehring,]