Thursday, March 8, 2018

Speaking of poetry (and shouldn't we always be?)

I was poking around on the internet the other day, and I ran across this article from the October 2014 issue of The Atlantic magazine:

The Joy of the Memorized Poem

It's a bit long, and I don't know who among you will take the time to read it, but I am hoping that Yorkshire Pudding will, and All Consuming, and Elizabeth Stanforth-Sharpe too, read it all the way to the end.

Anyone who loves "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats will enjoy it.

And even if you never heard of him or his poem, I hope you will still read the article.

It's that good.


  1. An interesting article. It shows someone who thinks he/she is not fond of poetry what poetry is. It sets a mood, tells a story, paints a picture in one's mind.

  2. In the introduction to a Japanese poetry collection I read that 'poetry is the language of the heart'. And the truth of those few words has stayed with me.
    I winced in rueful sympathy reading the article. MRIs are torture. And I too turn to remembered words (prose and poetry) in the effort to endure them without shrieking.

  3. Emma and Elephant’s Child (Sue), I have reached the point in my life and in my blogging where I am grateful for anyone who reads, let alone comments, on anything post I have written. Thanks to both of you!

    1. The predictive text seems to be acting up again— if I sometimes seem incoherent I’m blaming it on that.

  4. My Mother used to recite "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" but it never entered my memory to any significant extent. I love (some) poetry but have an inherent inability to learn things by rote although being of a certain age I still know my times tables. The one exception that has been with me since my youth is the Greek alphabet which has been extraordinarily useful for doing crosswords but has never touched my soul. All the epistles, gospels and the like that I had to learn by rote at prep school have long since gone (except, of course, ones like 1 Corinthians 13:1).

  5. Bob, thank you so much for directing my attention to your post. What a lovely eulogy not only for the art of poetry, but also for the power and delight of speaking it out loud and holding it in memory. The first poem I recall memorising was Rudyard Kipling's 'The Smuggler's Song', remember the way it came to me as I struggled to sleep and saw strange shadows on the wall of my childhood bedroom, and still stray lines come at unexpected moments - 'so watch the wall, my darling, as the gentleman go by.' The first read to me, bizarrely, was Beowulf, by my first teacher Miss Ursula Durden - an extremely odd choice for 5 year olds, but I remember being enthralled, so she must have executed it well. Today, my poetry tastes are eclectic - Elizabeth Bishop, Wordsworth and Ruskin would all be welcome guests at my poetry soiree.