A few years ago I decided to challenge myself to memorize a poem every week, and it was awesome. I worked with my friend Brian, a high school English teacher, and we put everything online to keep ourselves accountable. If you’re so inclined you can search through the archives of this very blog to find those old posts (look for “Poetry Summer,” or the hashtag #PoetrySummer). One of the things I loved about this was the way it helped me learn new things about the poems as I studied them and recited them out loud. My other favorite thing was how many people from the Internet jumped in and joined us, memorizing poems and sharing their thoughts in the comments.
So: we’re doing it again! The rules are simple:
1) You can pick a poem of any length, one per week, and must recite it out loud to someone on Sunday. Then you pick a new poem and start over for the next week.
2) This is all honor system: if you say you did it, we believe you.
3) No William Carlos Williams allowed. This is the only rule we will not bend on. Screw William Carlos Williams right in his stupid icebox.
I will start each week with a post, probably on a Monday, describing the experience of the previous week, presenting the full text of the poem I memorized, and announcing the poems Brian and I will memorize the following week. I will also try to recommend a short poem that newbie memorizers can work on if they don’t have any in mind.
This week I will be memorizing “Alone in Crowds to Wander On,” by Thomas More, because it’s the epigram of my new book, The Devil’s Only Friend, that came out yesterday! I always put a poem quote at the beginning of each John Cleaver book, and this is a great one. Brian will be memorizing “The Second Coming,” by William Butler Yeats.
Because we’re starting on Wednesday instead of Monday, I have an especially short poem for you, courtesy of the American poet Sarah Teasdale:
I wrote you many and many a song, but never one told all you are
It was as though a net of words were flung to catch a star.
It was as though I dcupped my hand, and dipped sea-water eagerly
Only to find it lost the blue dark splendor of the sea.