Currently housed in the Theodore Roethke Manuscripts Collection at the University of Washington in Seattle, these early drafts of “My Papa’s Waltz” show us Roethke’s important revisions of the poem. Roethke’s variations begin with the title itself, which shifts between “Dance with Papa,” “The Dance,” “Papa’s Dance,” “Dance with Father,” and finally, “My Papa”s Waltz.” But the most striking alteration in the drafts is the change from “girl” to “boy” in the poem’s first stanza. Perhaps with a female narrator in mind, Roethke revises “At every step you missed / My forehead scraped a buckle” as “At every step you missed / My right ear scraped a buckle” so as to temper the potential sexual implications of the dance.

Contributing author: Michelle Ephraim, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

To view each document and to respond to the accompanying questions, click on a title below:
> Draft #1 of “My Papa's Waltz” by Theodore Roethke
> Draft #2 of “My Papa's Waltz” by Theodore Roethke

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