river road, south/north
humidity: 90%/ dew point: 71
And yet another hot morning. Had to wait a few hours until the thunder storms stopped. Not much shade, several annoying groups of walkers taking up almost the entire road. For a long stretch at the beginning, I was able to run right above the river on the trail. It almost felt normal. A wall of green made it nearly impossible to see the river but near 38th street, where some steps wind down to the part of the Winchell Trail that’s paved, I saw it! Blue, beautiful. I miss water–seeing it, swimming in it, hearing it.
Lots of puddles on the path. Not much dripping from the trees, already evaporating in the hot air. Tried reciting “Before I got my eye put out” again but it was too hot. Also tried “Love Song of the Square root of Negative One”– “I am the wind and the wind is invisible, all the leaves/ tremble but I am invisible, bloom without flower, knot/ without rope, song without throat in wingless flight, dark/ boat in the dark night, pure velocity.” I love this poem and I love reciting it even as I still don’t understand it. Would it make more sense in the context of the whole collection? I’d like to buy this collection, War of the Foxes. I do know that the square root of negative one is an imaginary number and so I wonder if this is a love song to the imagination, which makes the leaves tremble while still being invisible? I’m not sure it needs to make sense; it’s fun to memorize and recite. Such great flow and rhythms.
This morning, I found a great article from the New Yorker on Why We Should Memorize poems. Here’s one reason the author gives:
The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen. Robson puts the point succinctly: “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”
Then, while looking up the term “ars poetica,” I found this wonderful poem about memorizing a poem:
Every reader loves the way he tells off
the sun, shouting busy old fool
into the English skies even though they
were likely cloudy on that seventeenth-century morning.
And it’s a pleasure to spend this sunny day
pacing the carpet and repeating the words,
feeling the syllables lock into rows
until I can stand and declare,
the book held closed by my side,
that hours, days, and months are but the rags of time.
But after a few steps into stanza number two,
wherein the sun is blinded by his mistress’s eyes,
I can feel the first one begin to fade
like sky-written letters on a windy day.
And by the time I have taken in the third,
the second is likewise gone, a blown-out candle now,
a wavering line of acrid smoke.
So it’s not until I leave the house
and walk three times around this hidden lake
that the poem begins to show
any interest in walking by my side.
Then, after my circling,
better than the courteous dominion
of her being all states and him all princes,
better than love’s power to shrink
the wide world to the size of a bedchamber,
and better even than the compression
of all that into the rooms of these three stanzas
is how, after hours stepping up and down the poem,
testing the plank of every line,
it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within.
I’d like to memorize this poem, I think. So I can spend more time with it, figuring out my favorite lines and what works, what doesn’t. In addition to his great lines about the process of memorizing the poem– “after hours of steeping up and down the poem,/ testing the plank of every line,/ it goes with me now, contracted into a little spot within”– I love how it engages with Dunne’s poem, weaving it into his own lines. I’d like to do something like this with Mary Oliver’s poem, “Invitation.”