I grow old . . . I grow old . . . Who starts memorizing poetry at my age?
If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be memorizing swaths of poetry now—on purpose—starting with a 131-line T.S. Eliot poem, I might have rolled up the bottoms of my white girlfriend jeans and run muttering down our country road. But someone dared to disturb my universe. Who knew I’d find myself settling a pillow or walking down the beach or floating on waves while reciting chunks of verse?
How did I do it?
So far I haven’t had the patience to conjure up fantastical images like many memory champions. I didn’t stock a memory palace, an imaginary place like a building in my mind where I could “cubbyhole” those images like the ancients did. I memorized (this time) mostly by rote and repetition. I wrote words out. I also let the poem come alive in my head. I visualized my own picture of what was happening in each verse. I did create images for prepositions or transition words (like a witch flying on a broom for “which” or a mermaid sitting on a large piece of driftwood for “should” as opposed to a mermaid with a shawl draped over her head for “shall.”) I don’t dream of ever entering some kind of memory competition. My collection of barista badges is enough for me.
I have done it: I have committed Prufrock. And I live to tell about it, though I can’t drink a cup of tea or eat a peach or a piece of toast without thinking about him. Okay, so I’m still working on that Italian epigraph, but it’s committed, and it’s been worth it after all.
Follow me over to Tweetspeak Poetry where I explain. And my recitation is linked there as well as here.
And isn’t this just the most flattering freeze frame? Yikes! Super scary.
Follow along here: “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot