Rip it up! Why We Read and Write Poetry

A friend of mine posted this favorite scene from one of my favorite movies on my facebook page tonight. In light of our recent discussions on poetry and Billy Collins’ “Introduction to Poetry,” I thought it would be appropriate to look at Mr. Keating’s (played by Robin Williams) way of dealing with a certain Dr. Pritchard’s Introduction, followed by his own words on why we write and read poetry in the first place. From Dead Poets Society, here is Robin Williams.

“That the powerful play goes on, and that you may contribute a verse.” I get choked up every time. Thank you for thinking of me, Erin. Pardon me, I think I have something in my eye.

25 Replies to “Rip it up! Why We Read and Write Poetry”

  1. I love this movie, as does any lover of literature.

    But for all you English-teacher hopefuls out there, let me say: it’s not really like this all the time…

    I still love my job though! I get to talk about books and writing and life all the time.

    Great film; great message; great poetry within it!


    1. No, it isn’t like this all the time. I haven’t been an English Teacher, but I’ve worked with youth in other capacities. Keep in mind, not to spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but there are some horrific tragic things that happen in that movie too. It’s not meant to be an all roses rainbows post. But I think his passion as a teacher is realistic, despite what I hear from teachers who are burnt out, or sick of the drudgery and the bureaucracy. Hang in there, J. Your students are lucky to have you.


    2. Thanks! I love my job, and it’s well worth dealing with all the other nonsense. I was just having a conversation the other day: the key to success in any job is a passion for it. Without passion, no matter how much money one makes, the pursuit is empty.


  2. Somehow “The Mom Poet” doesn’t sound quite as good as “The Dad Poet,” but that is part of what I strive to be (The Mom part, I mean), and I appreciate very much your poetry and your observations on poetry. After receiving critique after critique on the “telling” nature of my work as opposed to their preferred “showing” variety, I have come to the same conclusion that Mr. Keating does in his own way. Poetry is who we are, and as I am a woman of words and a teller of stories, I like to use the words I love in telling my own stories, with poetry as the conduit to those feelings. Thanks so much for including this snippet of a movie that is also one of my favorites.

    Your visit to my own writer’s blog (a very eclectic mix of poetry, rants, and essays). And in my characteristically shameless self-promotion, I will point out to you my new photography blog I have added to my writer’s blog: Called “Reflected Glory – My Adventures in Photography,” it is a chronicle of my efforts to become a photographer. Stop by anytime, and thanks for this wonderful post – as well as all of your others!

    (I had a long and sleepless night, and I just read through this discombobulated comment and am in awe of my own screwed-up syntax, Forgive me. I’m too tired to change it now.) πŸ˜†


    1. who pays any attention
      to the syntax of things
      will never wholly kiss you;

      That is what E. E. Cummings said, so no worries. I’ll respond in my own all-over-the-place manner, since I just woke up too. One: Mom Poet! I like it! I almost became Father Poet, but my youngest son cracked up at that because it made me sound like the priest of poetry. Mother Poet, on the other hand, would be an awesome name! The reason for the whole name of the blog, while it seems obvious, is a story I should tell some time. Thank you!

      I’m all for self-promotion, so thanks, I will check out the photography blog. Thank you for the kind compliments. And I should tell you that I LOVE the idea of God starting fires. πŸ™‚


    2. And now I notice I didn’t give you the link! (Which might be another way to promote myself – gety in a promo/comment twice! :lol:) (“Reflected Glory – My Adventures in Photography”

      Somehow “Mother Poet” makes me sound like a Mother Superior (perhaps of the “Order of Sainted Wordsmiths”) – perhaps we could start a collaborative blog called “Cleric Poets” That sounds pretty good too. It might lend our poetry some more “weight” as it were. . .


  3. This was my favorite movie throughout high school. Two of my friends bought it for me on the same birthday. I watched it so many times. But, as an earlier commenter noted, it’s too bad school was never really like this. I wonder if it can be? I suppose you’d have to be a teacher and an actor. And your students would all have to be actors, too . . . .


    1. Yes, agreed. I cannot say any of my high school classes were like this, except for one teacher in tenth grade, Mrs. Atwell. God, she rocked. And one teacher in college, Dr. Whitworth. AMAZING. I think you can see in the faces of some of those boys that they never really felt into the teacher’s passion quite the way as some of the others. It’s hard to be that creative too, in the American School system it seems, and it was hard for Mr. Keating in the boys’ school environment.


  4. “That the powerful play goes on, and that you may contribute a verse”

    Oh, my captain, my teacher, my soul, that I may read a verse that moves me to step deeper into this powerful play, that I may play, that I may word play, that I may seize this day, that I may contribute a small line, a single word… or at best breathe or smell or taste or hear or feel some thing of you, of life or love, or humbled gratitude.

    Thank you. I, too, stroke away a tear, untighten my throat.


    Some have said, and I believe Billy Collins is in this group, that we write to fight death and express gratitude.


    1. Ah, a very Walt-ish response. πŸ™‚ I like. And yes, Billy I think in an article I recently read, talked about the theme of death, and how we are attempting both to beat it, and more importantly, because of it, to celebrate life in the now.


  5. I loved, correction, me and my friends loved the movie. We were so influenced by it that we started our own small Dead-Poets society. Fun times πŸ™‚


  6. David,
    Great post. I haven’t seen that movie in a long, long while.. Time to find and watch it again.

    Passion engages the heart, the heart engages the brain and learning happens πŸ˜€




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