memorizing poetry

in tenth grade, our composition teacher made us memorize poetry. it's one of the few things he still remembers from high school to this day, he told us. then he proceeded to recite one of them. word for word.

i don't remember any of the poems we memorized. just the subject matter, vaguely. a walt whitman about the wall neighbors rebuild every spring between them, one about the assassination of president lincoln ("oh captain, my captain," i think it was), another about king ozymandius, the wiliam carlos williams one about the red wheelbarrow. see? famous poetry. i can't even remember the poets or the titles for most. i could google, but i don't.

at emo times in my life, i remember memorizing the poems (although not the poetry itself) and wish i still read poetry. concise, simple, powerful, evocative. the way i want the things i create to be.

too bad i am wordy and complicated.


  1. I was in the "Oral Interpretation Club" in jr. high. (I know, I know. It sound dirty.)

    We'd memorize poetry and then recite it in competition against other schools.

    Man, I was a DORK.

    Man, I AM a DORK.

  2. I only know the first stanzas of a lot of things -- gimmicky and trite stuff like William Blake's "The Tyger" and Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky."

    Of course, a lot of my memory is compounded with the stuff I learned in college, too. English major. Sounds funny coming from someone who doesn't read anymore.

    My piano memorization is just like my poetry memorization. I can play the first page of nearly every piece I ever learned.

    And that's it.

  3. <3 these comments!

    @nanette--i like dorks. especially smart, well-read ones. :)

    @weemo--because i don't have a natural talent for music but can sight read, i don't remember ANY of my pieces. i'm great at memorizing things right away for the short-term, but i guess my long-term memory isn't that great.

  4. We had to memorize the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales my senior year in high school. And then recite it in front of the class in Old/Middle English. I still remember it.

    I was in dance and can still remember the try-out dances for a lot of competitions. From high school!

    I have an amazing long-term memory for these things. Now I can barely remember where I put my keys.

    Word verification: sumpy.

  5. i only know stopping by the woods on a snowy evening by frost. and it's true, i learned that in the 5th grade and never forgot it.

  6. I still have part the soliloquy from Hamlet memorized - we had to recite it in 8th grade from start to finish. Amazing the things that stick in your brain, eh?

  7. I wrote a 12 page paper in college on The Red Wheelbarrow. Considering the poem is like 2 words long, I was quite proud of myself for expanding my BS to such a great extent.

    I'm teaching poetry right now. This morning we read John Donne's "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning." It may just be my favorite love poem of all time. Men just don't talk pretty like that anymore.

  8. it's not the same, but i remember having to memorize a page out of "fahrenheit 451" in freshman AP english. we were given a month to commit it to memory. then we sat around a faux bonfire in the classroom with the lights turned off, each reciting our pages in numerical order.

    huh, i'd forgotten all about that.

  9. I can't think of anything good to say.

    I'd make a great poet.

  10. I have zero interests in poetry, despite the fact that part of my Chinese name means poetry. Oh, and Nanette is a dork! Nanette is a dork! :)


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