Some people intensely disliked Williams, or grew tired of his mania. Perhaps he did, too. I, for one, have never laughed quite so hard as his HBO Specials - here is the 2009 show in its entirety, Weapons of Self Destruction.
I'll leave it to others to parse the relationship between genius or artists, and depression, and instead focus on the movie that links him to us. Of course, this is Dead Poets Society.
William's character, John Keating, has his students rip out the forward to a poetry book that claims there exists a mathematical formula to determine if a poem is great. He then tells them:
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute - we read and write poetry because we're members of the human race.
The scene ends with Keating reciting Walt Whitman's O Me! O Life!, part of Leaves of Grass - recently re-introduced to the public eye with William's recitation the voice-over in the Apple's iPad TV advertisement. With eerie prescience, Chief Toad Kerry O'Connor posted O Me! O Life! in this week's Open Link Monday:
The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse; what will your verse be?
Later in the film, Keating exhorts his students to Seize the Day - Carpe Diem, in the Latin.
And he is finally honored by several students despite being railroaded out of the school, as they climb on top of their desks, proclaiming him, O Captain! My Captain! - another famous Whitman pen.
It is ironic, then, the final couplet:
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
The film had no reference to beat poets, which irked some critics as it was set in 1959. However, Whitman was prominently featured, along with Frost, Thoreau, Byron - lots of dead poets in that society. If there are other Hollywood films about poets, none come to mind.
Originally, I had a different word list prepared, but William's suicide reminded me of other word-smiths who chose the same path, like Plath and Bukowski and Sexton, and so I hurriedly composed this not-quite-honorarium, in the hopes of reminding each of us to reach out for help when even the moon is dark.
So for your inspiration today, consider spending a little time with your own demons, or your own favorite poets, dead or living. Then, choose at least 3 words of the following list - taken from dialog in the film - compose a *new* pen, and post it to Mr. Linky.
worm, verse, dreams, suck, rout, daring, caution, seize, dead, desperation, barbaric, noble
We ask that you return frequently to visit the other poets links - and please comment, if so inspired - I suspect that we all could use the feedback.