One summer, a few years ago, when I was still living at home, my family and I memorized poems as a hobby. It was really fun, actually. Its amazing what you can memorize, probably pretty good for excercising your brain, and nice to impress your friends with, too.

I memorized Jabberwocky (Carol), The Second Coming (Yeats), A Thing of Beauty (Keats), and a couple of others that I can't think of off the top of my head right this minute. My mom memorized The Walrus and the Carpender (Carol), and many, many others (I guess she had more free time than me).

Poetry memorization.. i guess i started with poems from books i was reading anyway, One ring to rule them all, T'was brillig, and such. Then freshman year in high school, our evil english teacher made us memorize poems and recite them in front of the class. I still know most of Rudyard Kipling's If, of Ozymandias, of In Flanders' Fields. When we made mistakes, he would hold up one finger for each mistake, and the whole class would titter and make faces - torture for a shy, panic-stricken performer.

Then, four years later, I was at a school in England and had "evening school" - when i was required to be in my room working. Of course, what i was really working on was practicing juggling, and also memorizing poems - Plath's Fever 103º, Lady Lazarus (out of the ash/I rise with my red hair/ and I eat men like air); John Berryman - Life, friends, is boring...; Archibald MacLeish's Ars Poetica; tidbits of Shakespeare. Others and more.

Some of these I still remember. When i was free to walk about alone on the downs there, I would repeat them, hearing a voice as an instrument, and the words thrilled me.

So for Mrs. Wold's seventh grade English class, we were required to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class. Being 14, I was not much into this whole poetry thing, so I went to the counsel of my father for some help.

We talked about about poems, and he ended up suggesting two poems: "The Second Coming" by Yeats and "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen. Cool. Perfect. Two poems about war, death and destruction -- exactly what an adolescent Nirvana fan was looking for.

So I ultimately chose "Dulce Et", although I did end up memorizing both poems. The kid reciting before me, I believe, ended up choosing "The Road Not Taken" or something like that, so you can imagine the cognitive dissonance when I ended up reciting a poem about somebody getting gassed during World War I.

In any case, I credit that poem, and that excercise as well, as opening me up to the world of verse. It proved that poems didn't all have to be about love, flowers, and trees.

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