Reciting Poetry Aloud

February 26, 2012 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Over the last couple of days, I have been seeing articles about how quirky one becomes when one lives alone. How we solitary singles are prone to talking to our pets & stuffed animals, how we never close the bathroom door and sing/dance with free abandon. We are weird, eccentric and darn right, proud of it.

My number one quirk is that I like to recite poetry aloud!

I have collected poetry since I was a teenager and could not afford to spend money on books. Above are just two of my poetry collections; they are my earliest binders. There was no public photocopier at my high school (or in my small town) so any poem I wanted to keep I had to copy out by hand. My handwriting then was very tiny, precise and neat. I was happy to get a typewriter for my 16th birthday because it meant I could now type out the poems!

I love the sounds of words. The rhythm of a poem soothes my soul. I can still recite many of the first poems I learned. When I went to school memorization was mandatory.

I often whisper Georgie Starbuck Galbraith’s “Full Moon Song” when I’m feeling lovelorn. However, I can never remember the first verse.

Was ever the moon that didn’t wane?
Yet tonight the moon is full,
And the heart is richer that chances pain
Than the heart in cotton wool.

Then what, my love, if your love is brief?
Tonight you are mine to kiss,
And better a century of grief
Than never an hour of bliss.

I’ve always tended to remember only the best bits of a poem; for me, these bits usually tend to be maudlin.

 … What you hope for
Is that at some point of the pointless journey,
Indoors or out, and when you least expect it,
Right in the middle of your stride, like that,
So neatly that you never feel a thing,
The kind assassin Sleep will draw a bead
And blow your brains out.

The full text of this poem, Walking to Sleep by Richard Wilbur, is much longer. Excuse me for a moment well I go read it aloud! Aha, I see now why I only copied part – this poem does not flow smoothly off my tongue.

I’ve been trying to memorize The Shooting of Dan McGrew for decades.

I want to write poems like this. Poems that trip merrily off the tongue. Poems that last for centuries.

Poems like those of Marge Piercy or Dorothy Parker.

I do write poems (occasionally inspired by others’ words).

I wrote a poem which uses these two lines…

She’s dipped her quill in ink
That runs from the heart – blood red.

I thought I borrowed the exact words from Dorothy’s “For A Lady Who Must Write Verse”. I Didn’t. I took her idea and spun it around for my own purpose.

I just spend over two hours trying to find the source of those two lines that I thought I had copied perfectly from a poem. It took me an hour to recall the poet (Dorothy Parker) and two hours to go through my stuff. I knew I should have started at the end. I knew when I wrote the poem and where and where my original poem was but I got sucked into thinking Google would make it easy to find (hah). I’m a librarian, I should know better.

I want to recite with such passion as to make women weep.

I want to inspire as these women do at Spoken Words.

Alone, in my apartment, I can. I do.

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