Why do we read and write poetry? (Dead Poets Society)

Dead Poets Society is a wonderful film, obviously filled with a lot of references to English and American poetry. In this scene, John Keating (Robin Williams) teaches his pupils the reason for reading and writing poetry, quoting Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:

O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithlessΓÇöof cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the lightΓÇöof the objects meanΓÇöof the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of allΓÇöof the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the restΓÇöwith the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurringΓÇöWhat good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.

That you are hereΓÇöthat life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

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