Poetry Unit



RobertHayden and Judith Ortiz Cofer poems are about their fathers. InHayden’s poem named “those winter Sundays”, he talks about hisfather from a young boy’s perspective. In Cofer’s “My Father inthe Navy: A Childhood Memory” she talks about her father same wayas Robert albeit from a young girls perspective. However, thesedifferent perspectives converge to some extent. Inboth poems, fathers are portrayed as distant and mysterious figuresto their children almost from a different world.

Throughthe poem is a narrating nostalgic event involving his father and hisfamily. He talks of his father’s efforts to warm the house onwinter Sunday mornings probably before they went to church. He alsosays that he polished his shoes. In a manner that shows the man caredfor the family very much, Hayden says that his father would only wakeup the family if the house was warm enough. Despite his efforts, noone took time to appreciate his efforts or be nice to his. Hayden inparticular notes that he spoke to the man indifferently. The samecase is observed in the second poem. Cafer writes that though hisfather was away most of the time working in a submarine, to them hewas equivalent of an angle with “a round cap on his head like ahalo” (3). Though the father worked hard to cater for the familyand sacrificing a lot by being away from the family for most time,Cafer did not feel the connection with him as is supposed to bebetween a father and a child. To her, the dad was more than human andeven goes further to say that “the flash of white our father likean angel (12)heralding a new day” (13). The author ignores thereception or the joy of seeing their father but rather expresses theawe of seeing an ‘angel’ father.

Inboth poems, fathers did not share much about their lives with theirchildren and thus did make any efforts to demystify their existence.In the case of Cafer poems, the worked in the “he was an apparitionon leave from a shadow-world (4) and only flesh and blood when herose from below (5). By calling her father an “apparition”, hedepicts him as something that was not real to them in actual sense.Further, he worked in a shadow-world. Ordinarily, a shadowy-world isassociated with what is not well understood by humans and borders onwhat is evil. Clearly, the children were not informed about theadventures of working in a submarine or how it works. The authorcalls the submarine an “iron whale” (17). To the author, the manymonths he spent away in the submarine created a distance between herand the father though they looked forward to his coming.

Ina similar manner, Hayden also expresses his unawareness of hisfather’s workplace and how it shaped who he was. He says towardsthe end of the poem “What did I know, what did I know (13) oflove’s austere and lonely offices” (14). Here he suggests thatthe dad worked in a strict office that required high levels ofdiscipline which had shaped his character extensively. He says thathe also claims that the office was lonely implying that the fatherhad been accustomed to a life in which he was used to his own companyand did not miss the company of others as much as they missed his. Ordinarily, it would be expected that a father would teach his youngboy manly chores such as lighting a fire to warm the house and evenpolish shoes, but he chose to do that all by himself.

Thediscussion above has shown that the poems “those winter Sundays”and “My Father in the Navy” share a common view of fathers. Inboth cases, the authors express an aloofness of their fatherscourtesy of the nature of their jobs.


Kirszner,L. &amp Mandell, S. (2005). Literature:reading, reacting, writing.Heinle &amp Heinle.