Monday, April 6, 2009

By Heart

Article in the New York Times Sunday about memorizing poetry [linked at right]. Says 1) memorizing poetry is easy 2) it's pleasurable 3) it's cheaper than an i-pod. It also says that memorizing poetry might not help you do anything better, except of course, recite poetry from memory. I only had to memorize poetry once, for one class in college. We each picked a poet and every week we would begin class by going around and reciting a poem by our poet. The poet I memorized and recited was Leslie Scalapino. At first I didn't like Scalapino--I think because I didn't understand her. Then, slowly, I changed my mind. It isn't simply that I became more involved, but memorizing a poem forces you to understand them in a way that simply reading doesn't (or at least it did for me). And that's because to get from word to word and line to line you have come up with a reason why one should follow the other, even if it is just a superficial reason like we talked about clouds, so now we'll talk about ground. I have most of my own poetry memorized, but that is because I wrote it. I know the reason for every word and every line. Certainly right after I have written a poem I know it in complete. When it is someone else's work, that type of familiarity takes work, but it's worth it. I recommend if you think you don't understand a poem, memorize it, be able to conjure it in a context that isn't inside the pages of a book, then see how you feel about it.

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