Thursday, May 13, 2021

Poetry Memories

A Poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company
~William Wordsworth

Happy Poetry Friday! I have a rambly post today. I have to thank Kortney Garrison for her haiku oracle deck idea, which I made my mom for Mother's Day. Like Kortney, Basho was my poet of choice. (I used wallpaper samples to decorate the cards. I wish I had taken a picture!) I'm sure I'll make more.

On Twitter, writer Lauren Collins asked what poems people had memorized in school and what lines stuck. I was very interested in the answers! Many Brits of-a-certain-age memorized daffodils, If, Ozymandias, Dulce, Tyger. One person mentioned that Irish schoolchildren commonly learned Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney, which is a complete heartbreaker of a poem.

One of the most popular was Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost:

I memorized “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” by Shakespeare (from Julius Caesar, spoken by Marc Antony). I don't think I was particularly convincing, but my son could get me to follow him into battle with his rendition of Shakespeare's “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” (from Henry V, spoken by King Henry).

My creepiest school poetry memory was arranged by a stern English teacher who I thought of as a character out of The Crucible...I was pretty sure she would have accused us all of being witches. Anyway, she had the entire class read/chant General William Booth Enters into Heaven by Vachel Lindsay, which had such juicy lines as "Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath, Unwashed legions with the ways of Death—"

Vachel Lindsay was a poet with range. I had fun reciting this poem of his with my kids:

The Little Turtle
by Vachel Lindsay

There was a little turtle.
He lived in a box.
He swam in a puddle.
He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito.
He snapped at a flea.
He snapped at a minnow.
And he snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito.
He caught the flea.
He caught the minnow.
But he didn't catch me.


Live Your Poem has the Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks, Irene!


Bridget Magee said...

Aw, I love Lindsay's The Little Turtle poem, Tabatha. I think I'll use it with my EFL student next week - my little guy is fascinated with turtles. And thanks for the trip down memory lane, and that stern English teacher sounds like a TRIP! I wonder where she is now... :)

Linda Mitchell said...

I love this post! What other people had to memorize is fascinating! I was never asked to memorize a poem. But, Mrs. Simon asked all of us in her class to create a small anthology of collected poems. For sure, that was my entryway into falling for poetry. I had no idea that it was happening...but I did fall and have happily swum in words ever since. Great post, Tabatha! I like a good ramble now and again.

KatApel - said...

So many memories! And poetry lines. (I like the turtle rhyme most. AND I have two turtle poems to share today, too.)

Irene Latham said...

Turtles! I don't think I ever memorized a poem for school... though I recall my kids had to memorize "The New Collosus." I learned a few Shel Silverstein poems simply because my father read them so often! Thank you for sharing, Tab, and I totally want to see your Basho cards... make more make more! (Kortney is a marvel.) xo

Linda B said...

I know that turtle poem, too, do not remember reciting poems for a teacher but we sang several in choir, like "She Walks in Beauty"- Lord Byron. I'd love to see your Basho cards, too, Tabatha! Next time!

michelle kogan said...

Such a fun post Tabatha! I remember "The Little Turtle" too. I can't remember reciting poems, but remember learning many, from my mother reading them to me, and my own rereading many times. I love the idea of making haiku cards to play with, thanks for sharing Korney Garrison's link, and for your rich post!

Janice Scully said...

The poem I memorized as a kid, at least about half, was "Paul Revere's Ride." Why that, I don't know. I still know it, of course, because you don't forget what you memorize when you are in fifth grade. Thank you for that fabulous choral rendition of Frost's poem! Wonderful!

jama said...

What fun! I hadn't read the turtle poem before. Poems I memorized in school include "Paul Revere's Ride," Kilmer's "Trees," "I Had But Fifty Cents," and "Dried Apple Pies." :D

Mary Lee said...

So many connections! I have made something like Garrison's haiku deck with tiny canvases and my own lines! I want to try it her way/your way now!

A couple of my memorized poems that I lean on regularly are BARTER, by Sara Teasdale and LOVELIEST OF TREES by A.E. Houseman.

And that turtle poem for me is a song sung by Burl Ives on an LP whose grooves are likely polished to nothing from all the times we listened to it! (I hope I still have it...digging into boxes in the basement is a summer project!!)

Ruth said...

I memorized "Disobedience," by A.A. Milne, "You Are Old, Father William," by Lewis Carroll, Portia's "Quality of Mercy" speech from The Merchant of Venice - and others, I'm sure, but that's what's coming to mind right now. I played Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream in high school, and I can still say lots of those lines, too. Great topic!

Linda Kulp Trout said...

The first poem I memorized was "Dreams" by Langston Hughes. It's been my favorite poem since then. I enjoyed everything about this post!

mbhmaine said...

I loved meandering through your post and sharing your trip down memory lane.I distinctly remember learning the beginning of "The Tyger" in sixth grade and also the prologue to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" in Old English. I'm not sure if "The Little Turtle" was from my childhood or my children's, but it was such fun to revisit it. Talk about range!

Elisabeth said...

oh what a fascinating question to ask - the range of answers is like a poetry buffet, inviting one to savor the familiar poems and poets as well as trying something/someone new!

That is definite range - from vermin-eaten saints to little turtles! I think I'm glad to know that someone who could write about saints with mouldy breath could also write about endearing turtles :-).

Thanks for serving up this smorgasbord of poems for us to enjoy!

Karen Edmisten said...

I remember having to memorize "Barbara Fritchie" in grade school and our class reciting it for an assembly.

That teacher of yours! {shudder} Yikes. What was she thinking?!