This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Joseph Millar reading his poem “American Wedding” at the Dodge Poetry Festival. A father watches his daughter at her wedding, and is filled with mixed emotions. He is proud of her, he loves her, he knows she is happy and in love, but he can’t help feeling the precariousness of her situation as she prepares to embark on adult life.
For a biography of the poet Joseph Millar, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.
A father watches his daughter at her wedding and captures the scene. He is proud of her, he loves her, he knows she is happy and in love, but he can’t help feeling the precariousness of her situation. She is about to embark on adult life, married life, with children, a house, and other responsibilities. Deeper than that, he worries about what can drive a husband and wife apart, how the routine of "funerals, car payments, taxes, kids throwing up in the night" can begin to overshadow and replace the love that brought them together, so that even "if you manage to stay together/There will be nights you lie down/Like strangers back to back/Falling away from each other in sleep."
As he watches the Jewish wedding unfold with its unfamiliar traditions, (“young men will soon bear me up on a chair/a floating throne over the circle, clapping and singing”), the father observes but also reflects on his own experience. The wedding brings together two families—his represents a string of marital failures: “Divorced, remarried, adopted, nervous.” Should he warn the bride and groom? He seems to set up a question at the beginning of the poem, explores the messiness and richness of family life, and then draws us back to beautiful imagery at the end.
For more information and teaching resources about poetry please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.
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