My Papa's Waltz
Writing About His Father
Even though all of Roethke's poems aren't explicitly about his father, the poet's childhood spent following his father around his Michigan greenhouse had a huge influence on his writing. When Roethke's father died, he was devastated. But Roethke's father lived on in his son's writing. Roethke even published a book of poetry called The Lost Son and Other Poems, which included "My Papa's Waltz."
When Roethke's father is not mentioned specifically in his poetry, the nature, plants, and insects that Roethke encountered alongside his father usually appear. In this poem, we don't see too much of nature, but we do see the father's work in his rough hands.
Regardless of what controversy there is about the father-son relationship in this poem, "My Papa's Waltz" is one of many Roethke poems that commemorate his dad.