Bats, Drinks, and Horses: Oh My!

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As I was reading Roethke, I remembered I'm not much for poems about nature, even with the new, dark twist that he gives them. It's just isn't me. Although, I do like poems about animals (we can argue that that is nature later) so I really enjoyed his poem The Bat on page 8. It captures that mysterious feel I get when I see a bat. I'm slightly alarmed, but not exactly put off. I also liked his comparison of bats to mice. He's right and I hadn't thought of it that way before.

Also, as bad as My Papa's Waltz is I also enjoyed deciphering that poem and the effort Roethke put into making the fight a waltz, even in the rhythm of the poem. I found it odd though that such a big man, as I read in his beginning biography, would write about something like this. It seems, after I read the biography, that he would be the father (with his alcholism problem and his giant stature), but perhaps when he was still young and small he learned these traits (alcohol and abuse) from his father.

Last, in Elegy for Jane the narrator is neither the father or lover of Jane. Was Roethke just writing something for his student who was thrown by the horse and died? Is the poem a way to remember the student? Did this actually happen? Or is it something completely different?

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2 Comments

Andrew Adams said:

I feel as though Elegy for Jane is about his student, whom he ended up falling in love with, but never told them. I got to this conclusion from the last two lines of the poem.

"I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover."

This, along with how fondly the speaker describes "Jane" in the beginning of the poem makes it apparent how he feels about this person, whether they are real or not. The last line though, says that he is neither her father or lover. That's just the impression I got from it.

Aja Hannah said:

I thought that maybe he just talked that affectionatly about his student, not because he loved her, but just that he cared for her or was fond of her. Maybe (back in the day) teachers could talk about their students like that without being seen as lovers or sexual predators like today.

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