Walt Whitman never resonated with my students. That stilted verse, oh but what about all that sex and Leaves of Grass nonsense. Of course, if they cared enough to read between the lines and discover his racy lifestyle or questionable choices, they might have given him a chance.
So when all the textbook poems had been read and the brief synopsis of an 19th Century icon had been offered, it was time for a break.
Then and every single time (3 times a year in as many classes for 20 years) I watched a video tape disappear into the void, and I would bite my lip to hold back the tears for I feared the inevitable: I would cry and my juniors would get to watch.
Collectively, we watched as an amazed class of timid boys ripped pages from a textbook. What joy! Rip. Rip. Rip. Void the analytical explanation of the assemblage of words - excrement! Yes, sir, Mr. Keating, excrement. "Words and ideas can change the world," he offers. The human race is full of passion. We must write. We must live. "You will contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
He reached out to Mr. Anderson - to put him out of his misery. And then a student's worst fear realized as he "sounds his barbaric yawp" - and the barbarian slips out - loudly, to his amazement. "You have a barbarian in you after all." Don't you forget this, the teacher reminds.
The power, the self-less dedication of Mr. Keating to his students and to the poets of yesterday never got old. Never was a chore to watch. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may." "Carpe Diem" - seize the day. That is their legacy. "Seize the day, boys. Make your life extraordinary."
Every time I watched, I was renewed. I vowed to do seize every single day, to grab hold and make it count, to become extraordinary. The irony of these words haunt me today, as I cry for Williams. It is unbelievable that "his verse" ended this way.
I will remember the laughter and the tears, and be so very thankful that you shared your genius with me. That you provided a way - though Dead Poets Society - to awaken my "yawp" as well as that of my students. You were a master of transcendent wonder. I thank you. I will remember that "words can change the world" and I will do my best to do just that.
My verse will be extraordinary. What will your verse be?
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.