A yawp is a raucous noise, a yell. Children are, of course, masters of the yawp. Like all kids, mine love to be loud and boisterous and often exercise this love from the moment they wake up until the moment they lay their heads down at night. Yawp can also be used in reference to clamoring and complaining, which I'm sure describes us all from time to time. I heard the word used in this sense more than once when I was growing up: "Dana, quit your yawping and clean up your room." (I never thought I'd one day be saying the same thing to my own kids!)
However, the yawp I want to write about today is a different kind of yawp--it's the barbaric yawp that American poet Walt Whitman described in his "Song of Myself":
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
Who can forget that wonderful scene in Dead Poet's Society where English professor John Keating (played by Robin Williams) encourages his timid student (Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke) to find his yawp--that indefinable something that lives inside each of us, waiting to be given its voice. In this clip, Todd hasn't been able to complete his assignment, which was to write a poem, and Mr. Keating uses Whitman's idea of the barbaric yawp to help Todd express himself through poetry in a way Todd had never thought possible:
I cry nearly every time I watch this scene. I used to teach college English, and I hope that I was able to inspire at least one student the way that Mr. Keating inspired Todd, showing him that not only does he have a barbaric yawp but he can express it--and needs to express it. We all do.
I, too, sound my barbaric yawp. This blog is my barbaric yawp, my conduit for expressing myself. It's where I give voice to that something deep inside me that aches to be heard. Every time I post, I sound my barbaric yawp across the blogosphere.
We all do.
And I think Mr. Keating--and Mr. Whitman--would be proud.
What's your barbaric yawp? What have you chosen to give voice to today?