Dead Poets Society

“Medicine, law, business, engineering; these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love; these are what we stay alive for.”

– Mr Keating

Earlier this week, as I fancied I found myself with enough time on my hands, I decided to head to 1950s Vermont and catch up with Robin Williams as Mr Keating, an English teacher on a journey to inspire his students through the medium of poetry. Aside from the aforementioned gem he offered up (which I somehow found myself in firm agreement with, despite paradoxically also being reminded I probably ought to have been studying), Dead Poets Society is unsurprisingly littered with snippets from great poetry as well.

Frost, Tennyson, Byron and Whitman, to name but a few, all get offered a moment of glory in the film, and while it is no doubt well deserved, I couldn’t help but wonder at all the other remarkable wordsmiths who could’ve too done well with a spot on centre-stage. To that end dear reader, I offer you a poem I stumbled across from a poet just as renowned in some parts of the world as those I’ve already mentioned. Though admittedly his work below is in a translated form, Keating’s themes of beauty, romance, love, are still all artfully present, and have been wonderfully woven together to form the first on his list of what makes life worth living: poetry.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

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Love, Poems, and February 14th

“And neither the angels in Heaven above // Nor the demons down under the sea // Can ever dissever my soul from the soul // Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.”

Amongst some of the earliest lines of poetry I can recall, the unwavering dedication of Poe’s protagonist to his beloved has long been a beautiful source of wonder. And on the eve of the most romantic 24 hours in the Gregorian calendar for those who celebrate it, such an all-consuming love makes for perfect fodder for Valentine’s day cards and celebrations.

I can’t help but wonder though, what would the holiday look like if the below example from The Bard was more often followed instead?

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The Seagull

“Your turning cold on me is terrible, I can’t believe it, it’s as if I’d woken up and found the lake had suddenly dried up or drained away into the ground.”

Having recently been in a bit of a reading rut, of late I’ve found myself turning away from the more conventional novels on my reading list, and opting for plays instead. This in turn has lead me away from my To-Be-Read pile entirely, and towards a longstanding favourite: Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.

Now though it is obviously a multi-layered piece, at its heart, it tells the story of a young playwright and his doomed relationships with the women that surround him. And so if you asked me to summarise the play in oh, say, fourteen lines, I think I would end up with something that went a little like this:

(Spoilers within.)

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This Is Just To Say

“Time is a storm in which we are all lost. Only inside the convolutions of the storm itself shall we find our directions.”

William Carlos Williams said it well when he compared time to a chaotic force to be reckoned with. With the eye reputedly it’s calmest point, and convolutions of the storm far more testing, it is easy to see why he believed it is in these convolutions, or difficult times, that we are shaped, and emerge with a sense of direction.

For each person ‘convolutions of the storm’ will appear in different sizes and on different occasions; alas, it is that time of year again where I find myself facing some of mine.

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Dickinson, Poetry and Bronchitis

“Then Space – began to toll, // As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And Being, but an Ear,”

My favourite lines in Emily Dickinson’s ‘I felt a Funeral, in my Brain’, the first time I read them, I was struck by imagery of starry galaxies being poured down a golden ear horn, into a waiting ear. Her poetry was dark, and bleak, and yet rhythm and lexical choice had been woven together to produce such simplistic beauty I was inspired.

This inspiration manifested itself during a biology class where the teacher set us several tasks. One of them was to write a poem / rap / song / conversation entitled ‘Doctor – is there anything that can be done about my bronchitis?’ Drawing on Dickinson’s poem, I ended up with this:

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