As I looked out my bedroom window this morning, I was struck by the lovely jonquils “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” It reminded me of my freshman year of college when I fell in love with Wordsworth. It was my poetry class that Friday before Labor Day weekend. On the train ride back home for a brief Labor Day visit, I pulled out my Norton Anthology, flipped open to Wordsworth’s section and started to memorize “I wandered lonely as a cloud/That floats on high o’er vales and hills,/When all at once I saw a crowd,/A host of golden daffodils.” I loved the image in that poem of walking along and then suddenly being thrilled at the sight of something unexpected and beautiful and the attendant feeling of joy at having just seen it.
Memorizing poetry has been one of the great joys of my life–to taste the language on my tongue, to plant those images in my mind and soul. When you memorize a poem, it becomes a part of you, like a trusted friend whom you can suddenly call on. I love how the more you say it, the more you come to understand it or how the language evokes something different each time you repeat it. To me, a memorized poem is like a wonderful room you can wander into–always with something new to see, or roll around in the way a cat rolls around on the floor, rubbing up against the textures of its surroundings.
April is National Poetry month. So to celebrate, I encourage you to take a moment to read a poem and then maybe commit it to memory. If you think memorizing a poem is hard, start with something short like Emily Dickinson. Memorization is nothing more than repetition and a willingness to engage in something ostensibly boring. But the reward is well worth it, and you’ll be surprised at the joy it can bring.
Last month, I discovered Ise Lyfe. Ise is my new heartthrob!!! He is a multi-talented artist whose work is changing the world. His poetic TedTalk about housing discrimination is unbelievable. Watch it Here! I’m keeping my eye on this incredible writer and performer. He’s a one-of-a-kind. Also last month, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Pages Matam at the National Fair Housing Alliance in D.C. He’s a poet and national poetry slam champion as well as an activist. Check out his incredibly powerful poem Piñata. Finally, here’s more evidence about the value of memorization! In Praise of Memorization.