I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.”—Umberto Eco
To children, fathers are larger than life. They operate noisy machinery, heroically fix the unfixable toy, hammer their thumbs, thunder throughout the house, kiss boo-boo’s, and offer lessons no one else could teach. The man—the myth, whether present or in absence—shapes a memory. It’s natural that the subject of fatherhood is fixed firmly in poetry.
The hardworking, blue-collar dad in Robert Hayden’s poem, “Those Winter Sunday’s”, pays homage to a man known by his dutiful labor:
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
—by Robert Hayden
Sometimes, though, fatherhood shows up with a good dose of slapstick entertainment. Robert Pinsky once quipped,
From Polonius to Homer Simpson, fatherhood has sometimes been associated with comedy. Like all notions of dignity, fatherhood, in its dignity, invites the banana peel fall of satire.”
William Carlos Williams writes a witty poem about a dad who dances around in the altogether and proclaims his awesomeness as everyone sleeps (when no one can judge otherwise):
If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely,
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-
Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?
—by William Carlos Williams
Try it: Fatherhood Poems
Think about fatherhood and the traits or characteristics that make a man a father. Write a heartfelt tribute to a dad who deserves the gift of a poem instead of another tie. You can also write a poem, remembering fondly, a funny dad moment. Dad’s do goofy things. You should definitely seal the moment in a poem and share it with us! 🙂
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here is a family poem from Karen we enjoyed:
—by Karen J.
Photo by Justin Schuck, Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland