17 July 2008

No, you can't eat them, but...


I'd like to think that poems nourish the body and spirit in some important way. Of course, I have to feel that way, because right now I spend 25-40 hours a week reading poems. That's a lot of nourishment. But really, don't poems do more than we give them credit for?

What has a poem done for you lately? Or ever?

A lot of the poems that have done work for me have been ones I memorized. I'm of two minds about this as an assignment. I didn't mind doing it, but I'm pretty good at that kind of stuff. I don't, however, want to torture my own students by making them memorize. Maybe I should. But I don't like making people uncomfortable.

Sometimes when I'm scurrying around doing hardcore multi-tasking or being stressed out, I sort of silently chant a poem to myself. The last one I memorized on purpose, which was back in grad school, was this. There was a Leslie Ullman poem on my fridge that I could still quote to you. And then there are poems I've written that I have memorized, though I'm not really confident enough to look up from the page when I'm at the podium.

When I was in labor with my daughter I translated my poem "A Western" into French (in my head), then started to translate it into Spanish. Never got to German.

I think poems have made me brave. I like poems that make me laugh. I will never get tired of reading Stephen Dunn's poem "John and Mary."

Finally, poems have done work for me when they have made me want to write poems. You know the kind. Where you read them and barely finish the last line and must have paper. That's how I feel about this guy's poems. And hers.

So anyway, what has a poem (by yourself, or by someone else) done for you lately?

And for those of you who are getting tired of all this poetry talk, and missing the posts about my pets' escapades and office supplies and pictures of my feet, here's a shot of my sweet Rubi, who has just discovered how much fun rides in the car can be.

8 comments:

Steven D. Schroeder said...

I originally misread your sentence and thought you said you memorized a Jorie Graham poem in grade school. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Frank (the Colt) said...

Poetry makes me think, laugh, understand, and allows me to enjoy words.

Penultimatina said...

I bet I could've if it was in the curriculum at Infant Jesus of Prague elementary school... ;)

newzoopoet said...

Hey, I went to that school! ;)

Jay Robinson said...

I enjoy memorizing poems. Just this past winter I memorized, successfully, a Neruda poem. As a MFA student at Sarah Lawrence, memorization was a requirement in one of my workshops. In particular, my teacher Suzanne Gardinier told us, memorization can be used as a learning tool in the composition process. If you're unsure about a poem you're working, step away and try to recite it. Probably the parts you can't remember, and especially the parts you stumble over, are the parts that need the most work. More often than not, I've found that to be the case.

Penultimatina said...

Jay, you've got to be kidding me. You memorized a Neruda poem? What was the occasion? Did you perform it at theatre in the round?

Liz said...

Hi Mary,

Just found your blog and liking it loads...
Great question - what poems I love make me do is think anew about something ordinary, squawk in recognition, and give me the urge to get some writing down, real rapido...

Love Rubi - I've got a Dick who is a sort of look-alike to Rubi. : )

best
Liz

Penultimatina said...

Nice to meet you, Liz! Our dogs are so cute. :)