Like most people, I have many memories of my grandparents reciting poetry they learned 80 or 90 years previously in grade school. Thanks to the horror of rote memorization sweeping through the elementary schools I attended in the 80s, I cannot now recite a single poem. Maybe a few half lines of a few famous ones, but nothing more.
I have a spectacular short term memory. I used to parrot the child that recited before me during Sunday School Bible verse tests and I would study for exams the night before, relishing the feeling of all the information coming out in a rush during the test. After that, it was gone and what remained was usually not more than a vague muddle. Even my instrument – the horn – didn’t require memorizing.
I’m curious about what this process is like. How do you learn something backwards and forwards, so you can start from any point in the piece, not just go from the beginning and hope there is no train wreck somewhere in the middle? How memorized does something have to be so it stays with you forever. Is 36 too late?
Venturing further into overthinking – how does the poem change when it is said aloud? Does how the words feel in your mouth make it different.
To address this appalling gap in my education, I’ve decided to memorize one poem a month for the whole of 2015. At the beginning of each month, I’ll post the poem meant to be memorized and at the end, I’ll post a video of me reciting it.
If you’d like to participate too, either by suggesting a poem, reciting one you already know or doing the challenge along with me, I’d be happy to hear from you. Send me an email or comment with your thoughts or make a video of your recitation. I’ll post them all here (unless you say you’d rather it be private) to encourage others to give it a go.
Let’s use #recitare in social media chats. Because Latin hashtags selected by someone who doesn’t actually know Latin are the future.
Here’s a what people have suggested so far:
John Donne – a sonnet of
Shakespeare – a sonnet of
ee cummings – I Carry You In My Heart
Larkin – This Must Be The Bird; Aubade; The Old Fools
Yeats – The Song of Wandering Aengus
Heine – because maybe I should learn something in German? Eep!