A Poetic Performance by Robin Williams

By The Poet’s List



 “No one could possibly understand the depths of you.” — Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), Good Will Hunting


I remember watching this scene from Good Will Hunting. And when I watched it, it birthed in me a firestorm of thoughts.

This happens from time to time. I’ll absorb a performance and admire the presence of poetry. In defining poetry we tend to examine the main ingredients: Articulation; Control of the written word; Intricate wordplay; and eloquently stated epiphanies. We recognize that poetry is often a variation of thoughts that–while not new–may not have resonated prior to… that specific delivery… or that specific phrasing… or that specific performance.

And it is all of this; but more.

Poetry is the soul speaking. And however it speaks, when authentic, is poetry.

Poetry is a graceful reenactment of your rawest self. Poets are favored with linguistic ability; an awesome task which combines deep analytical thought, verbal prowess and often, some sense of stage technique. But poetry in and of itself is dynamic in ways that we don’t always consider. There is poetry in dance, poetry in music, poetry in love.

And there is poetry in acting. Well aren’t those two things that are difficult to reconcile? Acting and authenticity. Something rehearsed, something raw.

While Robin Williams didn’t partake in the writing of this script or scene, he captures the essence of grace and soul. His spoken words are firm, yet just above a whisper. His unspoken words hint to the layers of depth possessed by his character; and as much as you desire to know more, you admire the way in which he maintains his focus. This is not a soliloquy. This is a speech crafted for the benefit of Will.

I believe it was Robin Williams himself who once described the scene as, “intimate.” His speech is fueled with beautifully phrased memories–some sad, some intriguing. Bits of sarcasm are sprinkled throughout and, at times, it’s hard to decipher whether or not his message will culminate in a “Farewell.” His eyes are squinted; yet when you catch a glimpse of them, they dance. His tone–his leveled pitch–draws you in. You understand why Will is completely taken aback.

It is a magnificent quality to be able to demand attention without force: To be not in the midst of your emotion; but for your emotion to fine tune itself and seep elegantly through you. It may be true that more often than not, we won’t be so centered. More often than not, we’ll lose our cool and act and speak on impulse. However, those moments of serenity intertwined with power are to be savored. They are to be appreciated. They are our unrehearsed moments of poetry. And you need not be an artist to live your best performance.

In reality, it’s much greater than poetry for me. And though I won’t venture into theology, there is an irony to those adjectives. Grace, soul, serenity and power…



Rest in peace, Robin. [1951-2014]


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