My Papa's Waltz: A Childhood Reminder of Alcoholism and Mental Breakdowns

My Papa s Waltz is by Theodore Rothke it is about a childhood memory written later in his lifetime. Theodore Rothke s dad was an alcoholic drunk. Theodore Rothke went through a period where he was depressed and mentally unstable. Theodore Rothke was fascinated by the nature of the world; many of his poems were about this subject. Some people who read My Papa s Waltz come to the conclusion that it is about a drunken abusive father. However, I think when he was writing this he was reminiscing about a good childhood memory from when he was around seven years old.

Theodore Rothke s life was anything but ordinary. Not only alcoholism but also mental breakdowns through out the middle and later part of his life troubled Theodore Rothke. Rothke s beginning poems were written about the different worlds in nature. His earlier poems were not Rothke s most popular writings. Rothke was amazed while at the same time scared about many things, one of these fears were the natural world.

The other two things he was amazed by would be the mysteries of human speech and how a poet writes about their innermost feelings. His love poems in the later part of his life were his most popular. Rothke was regarded as not only a great poet but also known as a great teacher. Theodore Rothke gives so many examples to show his reader this was a positive memory in his life. One was Rothke show that this is a good time in his life is “Then waltzed me off the bed still clinging to your shirt”(Rothke 357).

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Another example in Rothke s poem that shows how this is loving time in his life is ” But I hung on like death such waltzing was not easy”(Rothke 357). Other people see these as fighting words, however, I see a little boy standing on his dad s shoes dancing around with the music playing. All these examples proved that he was remembering a fun night he had when he was a seven-year-old boy.

All references that might be taken negatively can be explained in a more positive light. One verse that may be interpreted as a negative experience would be “Every step you missed my eight ear scrapped a buckle”(Rothke 357). People interpret this to mean when he was beat with the belt ever time he missed he was scraped with the buckle of his dad s belt. This is not what happened at tall, when your little boy dancing on you dad s feet your head reaches you dad s waist. This is how whenever his dad would stumble, his ear scraped on his dad s belt buckle.

My Papa s waltz is a poem of a loving memory from a seven-year-old boy written later in his life. People automatically come to the conclusion if a guy is drunk he is abusive, however, this not the case. This poem is about a fun night that Rothke remembered from his childhood.

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My Papa's Waltz: A Childhood Reminder of Alcoholism and Mental Breakdowns. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from

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