You Call This Writing?

Below is an “essay” sent to me via email. I was supposed to fix any obvious grammatical errors that I found. This post is for everyone that has heard the words…

“Writing matters.”

Maybe now you will understand the importance behind these words.

Please brace yourselves.

My Papa’s Waltz

Theodore Roethke (1948)

The whiskey on your breath                                                  1
Could make a small boy dizzy;                                             2
But I hung on like death:                                                      3
Such waltzing was not easy.                                                 4

We romped until the pans                                                     5
Slid from the kitchen shelf;                                                  6
My mother’s countenance                                                     7
Could not unfrown itself.                                                     8

The hand that held my wrist                                                 9
Was battered on one knuckle;                                             10
At every step you missed                                                    11
My right ear scraped a buckle.                                            12

You beat time on my head                                                  13
With a palm caked hard by dirt,                                         14
Then waltzed me off to bed                                               15
Still clinging to your shirt.                                                  16

My Papa’s Waltz: Form and Diction

My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke is a poem that tells a story.  A man, a son, and a little bit of whiskey would be the main ingredients to this narrative poem. A young boy is waltzing with his father. However this waltz is not the most graceful.  The father has had a little too much to drink and the waltz is more of a clumsy romping.  The mother is in the background as they knock pots and pans off the kitchen shelf. She watches with a frown. The father dances his son to bed.  In this poem, form and diction play a major role in reinforcing the theme of the text.  I think the major theme is order and disorder.  Form maybe the way the lines of a poem are set up, or in other cases more subliminal.

Form in this case is best shown through its meter and rhythm. This poem is written in “iambic trimeter, as is used in waltz-time for dancing” (Moore).  A waltz is in three fourths time and this poem his six syllables this makes sense because the father and son are waltzing about the house.  Also the rhythm is a little sloppy.  Could make a small boy dizzy, was battered on one knuckle and my right ear scraped a buckle don’t exactly flow as the other lines do, they also have seven syllables instead of six.  The stanzas that flow demonstrate the theme of order as the seven that don’t represent disorder.  This makes the poem seem somewhat clumsy. It relates to the poem because the father was intoxicated enough to be knocking over pots and pans and stomping about the house.  The son was “clinging to your shirt” (line 16) and holding on “like death” (line 3) implying that the son was fearful of falling. In addition to form, diction continues to illustrate the theme.

The rhymes of My Papa’s Waltz also contribute to the theme.  Some words, such as “dizzy” (line 2) and “easy” (line 4) or “pans” (line 5) and “countenance” (line 6), are slant rhymes.  This means that the words almost rhyme but it’s sloppy.  Roethke meant to use this sloppy form of rhyme to exploit how clumsy the father is acting while waltzing around the room. He also uses words such as “romped“ (line 5) and “dizzy” (line 2) to give the same effect.  His use of diction lets the reader clearly visualize the picture of a father and son dancing in an awkward rumpus.  The words that clearly rhyme give the poem the order as the slant rhymes represent disorder.

Disorder and order, the theme of My Papa’s Waltz shows almost a yin and yang of poetry.  In one stanza everything fits and sounds like a song but the next doesn’t.  The stanzas then compliment each other.  The form and diction of the poem proves this general theme.

I do not believe this essay needs an explanation. My advice to the writer? Rewrite it. It is crucial that students with a public relations major learn how to write! I cannot stress this point enough. Also, always reread your work! There are countless errors in this paper that could have been avoided simply by reading it over again. My suggestion? Read your paper out loud. This allows you to catch any grammatical errors and it will be obvious if a sentence does not flow smoothly.

So please, for the love of all things PR, practice writing.

*Stay tuned for a post on how to improve your writing skills*

Side Note: I was given permission from the writer to use this essay in my blog as an example. He/She is an amazing friend (and will soon become a better writer).

About LSnyder

I am a Freshman at DePaul University majoring in PR & Advertising. I'm obsessed with the following: the Holidays especially Christmas, food and its glorious temptations, New York City, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and a good book. I'm a writer, a photographer, an artist, and, most importantly, a creater.
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One Response to You Call This Writing?

  1. Ralph Starling says:


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