Student Activity

Hayden and Roethke

Poetic Form: Robert Hayden and Theodore Roethke

Read Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays," paying close attention to the sounds of the words. What sounds do you notice as you read the poem aloud?

  • How do these hard "c" and "k" sounds (consonance) contribute to the mood of this opening stanza?
  • What effect does this example of consonance have on the speaker’s characterization of his father? Why or how?
  • Why do you think, "No one ever thanked him."
  • When you hear this stanza, what do these sounds sound like (despite the words’ meanings)?

Read the following poem by Theodore Roethke, paying close attention to the meter and rhythm of the poem.

  • How is this form different from that of "Those Winter Sundays"?
  • Count the beat out as you read the poem aloud. How many beats per line?
  • What effect does it have when the line has extra beats?

Compare these three lines from the draft version of Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" to the final version. The draft version is available at the bottom of this webpage: Earlier draft of "Those Winter Sundays" - (you may need to scroll down towards the end of the page to find the earlier version, or press Control-F and enter "Those Winter Sundays" as the search term):

  • Draft Version:
    Sundays too my father got up early
    and put his clothes on in the stiffening cold,
    and then with hands cracked and aching.
  • Final version:
    Sundays too my father got up early
    and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
    then with cracked hands that ached
  • How is this earlier version different?
  • What effect does the change from "stiffening cold" to "blueblack cold" have on the poem and its mood and meaning?
  • What effect does Hayden’s change from "aching" to "ached" have on the poem? What about his dropping the "and" that originally began line 3?

Background information and helpful links, drawn from the EDSITEment-reviewed resources The Academy of American Poets, Modern American Poetry, and the Library of Congress American Memory Project: