Monday, August 30, 2010

The Lost Art of Poetry Memorization

When I was in Junior High, we had to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class. I, of course, chose the one that Ponyboy had read in the Outsiders, Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost.
Ever since then I've loved working on memorizing poems or stanzas that I love so that they are always in my head when ever I need them.

While visiting the Poetry Trail at the Robert Frost Museum in Franconia last week, I came upon another one which I wanted to live in my head.

Hyla Brook -
BY June our brook’s run out of song and speed.
Sought for much after that, it will be found
Either to have gone groping underground
(And taken with it all the Hyla breed
That shouted in the mist a month ago,
Like ghost of sleigh-bells in a ghost of snow)—
Or flourished and come up in jewel-weed,
Weak foliage that is blown upon and bent
Even against the way its waters went.
Its bed is left a faded paper sheet
Of dead leaves stuck together by the heat—
A brook to none but who remember long.
This as it will be seen is other far
Than with brooks taken otherwhere in song.
We love the things we love for what they are.

So, last night I worked on memorizing it so that I know it by heart. I read it aloud a few times (I think that poetry, like a play, is meant to be read aloud, so I always read it that way) then I listened to Robert Frost himself read it. At first I had the first part and the last part down, but kept forgetting the middle. I can usually picture words in my head so I made sure to look at each line. Then I wrote down just the first letter of each line to trigger the whole line if I got stuck.

It worked, and then I made dinner while saying it out loud over and over again. Then when I woke up this morning, I said it again. Now it's in my head, and can be taken out when I need a hiking cadence or something to cleanse the palate of my brain between tasks.

There are some Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnets that live in my brain, and I'd like to work on some more Frost poems. It's sort of like knowing a song by heart, you just do after a while.

Do other people do this?

1 comment:

Sarah said...

they do, but seemingly less and fewer. you, my dear, are a treasure in your exploration of the life you are living. the mere idea of a walking cadence that is poetry thrills me. makes it not seem so idiotic to have words feel like succulence on the tongue, or rhythms that sear the throat, or echos that haunt one's movement.

thank you for this post. it really raised my spirit.