“The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.” To me, this is one of the most compelling lines ever written. It was penned by my favorite poet, Walt Whitman, in his poem, “O Me! O Life!” If you have not read this poem, I would highly recommend you check it out. Not only is it brimming with inspiration, but it is also quite fitting for the world we live in today and offers much needed inspiration to keep living life through the daily dichotomy of monotony and chaos.
As much as I have fallen deeper in love with this poem over the years, it was actually not in a poetry anthology where I first encountered these words. Instead, it was in another artistic medium almost as near to my heart as the written word: film. The 1989 Robin Williams’ film Dead Poets Society to be precise. Williams’ character, the progressive English teacher John Keating, recited this poem to his students, following up the final line of the poem with a charge to his pupils: “What will your verse be?”
That movie, and that scene in particular, have stayed with me for years. The lines were delivered with such passion that I was sure Williams’ character wasn’t just speaking to his class (whom he was inspiring to live creatively outside of society’s confines), but he was also speaking to me, as well.
Perhaps the biggest pull for me to this poem and movie is the fact that I, like Keating, am an educator. While the society that today’s 21st century students face is different from that of New England preparatory school boys in the 1950s, students are still students. They are young adults anxiously awaiting the “beginning” of their lives after graduation and are longing for direction.
Like Keating, I am a teacher of English, and like Keating, I always want to encourage my students. To help them break the mold of their ordinary lives and live extraordinarily. I believe so much in the sentiments of this film that I show clips of it to my classes and hold discussions analyzing the lines of Whitman’s “O Me! O Life!”
It is, in fact, a great joy for me to share my passion for literature and Dead Poets Society with students. Indeed, it was one of the highlights of my teaching career when an exceptional class I taught a few years ago surprised me one day when I walked into class and they were standing on their desks proclaiming, “O Captain, My Captain!” (another ode to Whitman and DPS). As wonderful as these moments are, they lead me to quieter moments of reflection that, over the years, have led to a deep realization.
I have not taken the advice of Keating, the advice that I myself have given to hundreds of students in the past. I have not fully seized the day when it came to my own passions. I have not stepped out of the confines I have put on myself to live the “expected” life. After having this moment of clarity, I knew that something needed to alter for me to truly make my life extraordinary.
And that brings us here. I am taking my passions of the written word and making a positive impact on others, and I am contributing my verse, in the words of Whitman and Keating. Through original pieces, as well as hopefully partnering with future clients, I am standing on my proverbial desk to see the world differently, through the tip of my pen and by collaborating with others. With this central post as a daily reminder, I am excitedly beginning the journey of contributing my verse to the powerful play we call life.