O Me ! Oh Life

Learn poetry and writing with listenign and reflection exercises from eslwriting.org.


Here is an ESL writing exercise that begins with a poem and asks English students to write a considered response.

Exercise Structure

1  Read the poem O Me! Oh Life! by Walt Whitman.
2  Students write a response piece by briefly discussing their interpretation of the poem.
3  Students answer this question, based on the last part of the poem, “What verse will you contribute?”

The Poem

O Me! O Life!

Walt Whitman (1819–1892)


O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;

Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities filled with the foolish;

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renewed;

Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;

Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Fun Stuff

If you need a more colorful way to present the poem, here is a terrific cartoon spread of the poem by Zen Pencils.



The image in this post comes from The U.S. National Archives and its use complies with the owner’s creative commons licensing terms.


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