Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Milestone of ... Madness?

Okay, I reached a milestone today--one that will probably not surprise my Facebook friends. Those folks probably have noticed the past few months that I seem to have been memorizing a lot of poems (I post about each one when I've learned it).

Well, there's been a reason for that.

Some months ago, I realized that my total was nearing 200 (I was in the 170s at the time). I thought: I'm a-gonna do this!

And so I set out to do that which, today, I finished. No. 200.

I've written before here about my obsession with memorizing, an obsession that began slowly, accelerated, and has now reached terminal velocity.

The first piece I memorized as a school assignment was back at Adams Elementary School (Enid, OK) in the early 1950s. "A Visit from St. Nicholas," which I had to recite for the parents at some program. As I've written before, that part in the poem about "dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly" always puzzled me, but I charged through it as if I knew what it meant. (Good preparation for my teaching career!)

Other teachers assigned other poems through the years--one, my senior year in high school, was the first stanza or so of Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"--"The curfew tolls the knell of parting day ...."

I memorized other things just by repetition--hearing it, saying it--from naughty rhymes on the playground to Scripture in church.

After I began teaching a few years, I began requiring my students to memorize famous poems and passages (about ten to a dozen a year), and it was then that my true memorization mania commenced. I would learn the texts along with my class, but soon I grew bored and while they were learning, say, "The Road Not Taken," I would do another Frost poem. This went on and on and on.

I retired from public school in January 1997, then returned in 2001 to teach at a private school, Western Reserve Academy, where I continued the practice--again, learning new ones while the kids worked on my "old" ones.

I was nearing 100. And I reached it. On November 8, 2010, I gave a speech in the Reserve Chapel about what I'd done. One hundred poems!

But then what?

Aw, just keep learning ones I liked, were famous, were by writers I admired--or all of the above.

Finding "rehearsal" time, as I've written here before, has become an ... issue. I know that I must practice them, every week, more than once, or they will fly away like bored birds. So I've assigned a "time" for each of them. I have sets of them I rehearse (mumbling and mouthing only--I have not yet begun to speak them aloud in public!):

  • brushing my teeth in the morning (newer ones, every day)
  • in the shower, M-T, Th-Fri
  • while I dress (newer ones), every day
  • walking over to the coffee shop (M-T, Th-Fri)
  • at the coffee shop in the morning (M-T, Th-Fri)
  • driving out to the health club (M-T, Th-Fri)
  • at the health club (Monday thru Saturday, though I'm sometimes a Bad Boy and take a nap instead)
  • walking over to the coffee shop in the afternoon (Mon-Sat: newer ones, ones I'm learning)
  • walking home from the coffee shop in the afternoon (ditto)
  • in bed (going over ones that caused me to stumble earlier in the day)
So I've reached 200. Now what? Do I rest? Pat myself on the back?

I'm not sure. I know that (soon?) I will probably find some poems I just must learn. And so I'll do it. And off I'll go again on the Highway to 300.

And as for practice time? Joyce--who is usually the sole audience for these lines--may soon realize she's married an inveterate mumbler.

Anyway--here's the entire list ...

Matthew Arnold
              “Dover Beach”

W. H. Auden
              “Funeral Blues”
              “Musée des Beaux Arts”
              “Autumn Song”
              “Carry Her Over the Water”       

              “Psalm 23” (KJV)

Elizabeth Bishop
              “One Art”
              “Breakfast Song”

William Blake
              “The Tyger”

Philip Booth

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
              “How Do I Love Thee?”

Robert Browning
              “My Last Duchess”

Lord Byron
              “She Walks in Beauty”

Carroll, Lewis

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
              “When I Was Young”
              “Kubla Khan”

Billy Collins
              “After I Heard You Were Gone”

Hart Crane
              “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” (“There are no stars tonight”)

Stephen Crane
              “The Sage Lectured”
              “A Man Saw a Ball of Gold in the Sky”
              “A Man Said to the Universe”
              “In the Desert I Saw a Creature”
              “I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon”       

E. E. Cummings
              “I carry your heart with me”
              “maggie and millie and molly and may”
              “love is more thicker than forget”
              “the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls”
              “anyone lived in a pretty how town”

Charles Dickens
              Opening and closing sentences from A Tale of Two Cities

Emily Dickinson
              “Because I could not stop for death”
              “A bird came down the walk”
              “Hope is the thing with feathers”
              “If you were coming in the fall”
              “I like to see it lap the miles”
              “I taste a liquor never brewed”
              “Much madness is divinest sense”
              “There is no frigate like a book”
              “They say that ‘Time assuages’ —”
              “The going from a world we know”
              “The brain is wider than the sky”
              “I heard a fly buzz when I died”
              “A narrow fellow in the grass”
              “The props assist the house”
              “As imperceptibly as grief”
              “This is my letter to the world”
              “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”
              “The bee is not afraid of me”
              “Wild Nights! Wild Nights!”
              “A route of evanescence”
              “I dwell in possibility”

John Donne
              “Death Be Not Proud”
              “The Flea”
              “No Man Is an Island”

Ralph Waldo Emerson
              “Concord Hymn”

John Fletcher
              “Do Not Fear”

Philip Freneau
              “The Indian Burying Ground”

Robert Frost
              “Acquainted with the Night”
              “Fire and Ice”
              “Mending Wall”
              “Nothing Gold Can Stay”
              “Provide, Provide”
              “Questioning Faces”
              “The Road Not Taken”
              “The Silken Tent”
              “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Thomas Hardy
              “When Dead”

Jeffry Harrison

Felicia Hemans
              “The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck”

Robert Herrick
              “Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May”

A. E. Housman
              “When I was one-and-twenty”

Oliver Wendell Holmes
              “Old Ironsides”

Langston Hughes
              “Mother to Son”

Ted Hughes
              “Hawk Roosting”

Ben Jonson
              “On My First Son”

John Keats
              “Much Have I Travell’d in the Realms of Gold”
              “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
              Excerpt from “I Have a Dream”

Galway Kinnell
              “Promissory Note”

Philip Larkin

Vachel Lindsay
              “Factory Windows”

Abraham Lincoln
              “The Gettysburg Address”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
              “The Arrow and the Song”
              “The Cross of Snow”
              “My Lost Youth”
              “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls”
              “Haunted Houses”

Amy Lowell
              “Night Clouds”

John McCrae
              “In Flanders Fields”

Keir Marticke (WRA student)
              “She Who Carried Hope”

Andrew Marvell
              “To His Coy Mistress” (“Had we but world enough”)

John Masefield
              “Sea Fever”

Edgar Lee Masters
              “Mabel Osborne”
              “Percy Bysshe Shelley”

William Matthews

Edna St. Vincent Millay
              “The Courage That My Mother Had”
              “Dirge Without Music”
              “First Fig”
              “Only until This Cigarette Is Ended”
              “Second Fig”
              “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed”
              “I Shall Forget You Presently”
              “Sonnet XIII: Read history”

Clement Clarke Moore
              “A Visit from St. Nicholas”

Sharon Olds
              “The Clasp”
              “High School Senior” (“For 17 years …”)
              “I Go Back to May 1937”  (“I see them standing…”)

Mary Oliver
              “The Black Snake”
              “When I was young and poor”

Thomas Paine
              “These are the times that try men’s souls”

Edgar Allan Poe
              “Annabel Lee”
              “The Raven”
              “To Helen”

Ransom, John Crowe
              “Bells for John Whiteside’s Daughter”

Edwin Arlington Robinson
              “Mr. Flood’s Party”
              “Reuben Bright”
              “Richard Cory”
              “Miniver Cheevy”

Kay Ryan
              “Ship in a Bottle”

Brynn Saito
              “Stone on Watch at Dawn”

Robert W. Service
              “The Cremation of Sam McGee”

William Shakespeare
              “All the world’s a stage” (from As You Like It)
              “But will you woo …?” (from The Taming of the Shrew)
              “Well come, my Kate” (from Shrew)
              “Fie, fie!” (from Shrew)
              “To be or not to be” (from Hamlet)
              “O, what a rogue and peasant slave” (from Hamlet)
              Hamlet (assorted short speeches)
              “Our revels now are ended” (from The Tempest)
              “Sigh No More” (from Much Ado About Nothing)
              “She should have died hereafter” (from Macbeth)
              “Soft you; a word or two before you go” (from Othello)
              “Fear No More the Heat of the Sun” (from Cymbeline)
              Sonnet 1: “From fairest creatures we desire increase”    
              Sonnet  2: “When forty winters shall besiege thy brow”
              Sonnet 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
              Sonnet 27: “Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed”
              Sonnet 29: “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”
              Sonnet 30: “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought”
              Sonnet 31: “The bosom is endeared with all hearts”
              Sonnet 55: “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes
              Sonnet 56: “Is it thy will thy image should keep open”
              Sonnet 64:“When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d”
              Sonnet 73: “That time of year thou may’st in me behold”
              Sonnet 97: “How like a winter hath my absence been”
              Sonnet 98: “From you have I been absent in the spring”
              Sonnet 106: “When in the chronicle of wasted time”
              Sonnet 111: “O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide”
              Sonnet 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds”
              Sonnet 123: “No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change”
              Sonnet 130: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”
              Sonnet 138: “When my love swears that she is made of truth”
              Sonnet 147: “My love is as a fever, longing still”
              Sonnet 154: “The little love god, lying once asleep”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shel Silverstein
              “The Little Boy and the Old Man”

Charles Simic
              “Eternity’s Orphans” (“One night you and I were walking”)

Kathryn Starbuck
              “A Gift”

Robert Louis Stevenson
              “My Shadow”
              “Windy Nights”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson
              “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
              “Crossing the Bar”
              “The Eagle”
              “The Kraken”

Dylan Thomas
              “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”
              “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower”
              “In My Craft or Sullen Art”

Tomas Tranströmer
              “The Half-Finished Heaven”

Ocean Vuong
              “Torso of Air”

Walt Whitman
              “O Captain! My Captain!”

Richard Wilbur
              “Ecclesiastes 11:1”
              “The House”
              “April 5, 1974”
              “Year’s End”
              “Boy at the Window”

William Wordsworth
              “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud”
              “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways”
              “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal”
              “The World Is Too Much with Us”
              “My Heart Leaps Up”

Wright, Charles
              “It’s Sweet to Be Remembered”

William Butler Yeats
              “Brown Penny”
              “The Lake Isle of Inisfree”
              “Oil and Blood”
              “The Second Coming”
              “When You Are Old”
              “The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner”
              “Down by the Salley Gardens”
              “The Wild Swans at Coole” 

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