My final exam for my Theater 113 class my first semester of college was to reenact a movie scene. This scene is one of my all-time favorites. I was Mr. Keating.
(is walking towards the door)
Now, in addition to your essays, I would like you to compose a poem of your own, an original work.
You have to deliver it aloud, it front of the class on Monday.
Bon chance, gentlemen!
Mr. Anderson! Don’t think I don’t know this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole.
(speaking to a student)
Congratulations, Mr. Hopkins. Yours is the first poem to ever have a negative score on the Pritchard scale.
We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing near you.
I don’t mind that your poem has a simple theme. Sometimes the most beautiful poetry can be about simple things, like a cat or a flower or rain. You see, poetry can come from anything with the stuff of revelation in it.
Just don’t let your poems be ordinary.
(pauses and turns away)
Now, who’s next?
(walks over to Todd)
Mr. Anderson, I see you sitting there in agony. Come on, Todd, step up. Let’s put you out of your misery.
I-I didn’t do it. I didn’t write a poem.
(to the class)
Mr. Anderson thinks everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing.
Isn’t that right, Todd? Isn’t that your worst fear?
(as he walks to the board)
Well, I think you’re wrong. I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal.
(writing on the board)
“I sound my barbaric… YAWP over the rooftops… of the world.” W.W. Uncle Walt, again.
(to the class)
Now, for those of you who don’t know, a yawp is a loud cry or yell.
Now, Todd, I would like you to give us a demonstration of a barbaric yawp.
(pushes Todd to stand)
Come on, you can’t yawp sitting down. Let’s go. Come on, up. Got to get in yawping stance.
(stands in front of class)
A- A yawp?
Not just a yawp. A barbaric yawp.
Come on. Louder.
That’s a mouse. Come on, louder!
Oh, good God, boy, yell like a man!
There it is.
You see, you have a barbarian in you after all.
(Todd pushes away)
You don’t get away that easy.
(turns Todd around and points out photograph of Walt Whitman)
There’s a picture of Uncle Walt up there. What does he remind you of? Don’t think, answer. Go on.
What kind of madman? Don’t think about it, just answer.
A cr-crazy madman.
No, you can do better than that. Free up your mind. Use your imagination. Say the first thing that pops into your head, even if it’s total gibberish.
A-A-A sweaty–toothed madman.
Good God, boy, there’s a poet in you after all!
There. Close your eyes. Close your eyes.
(puts hands over Todd’s eyes)
Close them. Now describe what you see.
(both begin to spin in circles)
Uh, I-I close my eyes…
Uh, and his image floats beside me.
A sweaty–toothed madman.
A sweaty–toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.
Oh, that’s excellent! Now, give him action, make him do something.
H-His hands reach out and choke me.
That’s it. Wonderful. Wonderful.
(stops spinning in circles so Todd faces the class)
And all the time he’s mumbling.
What’s he mumbling?
Truth, like, like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.
(opens eyes to look at class)
(puts his hands over Todd’s face)
Forget them. Forget them. Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket.
Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough.
You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us.
From the moment we enter crying, to the moment we leave dying, it’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.
(opens eyes with relief and astonishment)
Don’t you forget this.