Memorizing Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on November 25, 2009
in Essays

In This Essay

Complete Poems of John Keats
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Speaking of Faith: Learning, Doing, Being: A New Science of Education
 

In college I resolved to memorize Paradise Lost.

Not just “The Invocation to the Muse,” the first twenty-six lines. The entire work. All twelve books.

My inspiration came in part from watching The Crow. One of the villains, T-Bird, picks up a book and reads, “Abashed the Devil stood and felt how awful goodness is, and saw Virtue in her shape how lovely…” Wondering if he were reading from a real book, I searched Google and found that quote comes from Book IV of Paradise Lost.

I developed a plan, in fact, to memorize the poem. After letting this grandiose idea overtake me, I sat down with a copy of the poem and determined how many lines were in each book. Then adding them up, I figured how long it would commit to memory if I memorized a fixed number — I believe it was ten lines — per day. It was a project that was going to take years of dedicated work.

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For Madmen Only

by Matthew Koslowski on November 4, 2009
in Essays

In This Essay

Steppenwolf: A Novel by Hermann Hesse (Basil Creighton, trans.)
The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats (Richard J. Finneran, ed.)
Don Juan in Hell: From Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
 

Last night I finished rereading Steppenwolf. I had put it down for a while and flitted among the arts.

I know for certain I am in the middle of two other novels. But I think I may have forgotten that I am in the middle of any number of others.

The past few weeks have been filled with theatre and opera.

As if that were not enough, I have been reading from the poetry of Rumi, W.B. Yeats, and John Keats. In fact, I have been working on memorizing Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.” I have the first stanza of ten lines memorized; only seventy lines left to commit to memory.

“Why are you spreading yourself so thin?” I asked myself earlier.

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