Yesterday morning, the steamy start to an unseasonably hot, sultry June day, it looked like I’d be late to work. I had just missed a bus that would have gotten me there fashionably late, so I had to take a combination of bus and Metro. My mood and my stomach hurt. I’m grateful for my job, but wasn’t thrilled to have to be doing it.
Morning commutes for some time now have become fruitful writing and thinking times, rich moments of literary output. Yesterday I couldn’t be bothered with either so I pulled out the poem I’m memorizing and spent time with it. I didn’t have to expend the effort to write something. All I had to do was read the portion I was working on, look for patterns, and repeat, repeat, repeat. When a person memorizes poetry, she bathes her mind, her soul, her whole self in rich, healing words. I’m working on a Shakespeare sonnet now filled with phrases that are especially verbally lush. By the time the bus deposited me at the Metro station fifteen minutes later, I felt better. Repeating the sonnet’s words again and again as I worked to memorize it replaced at least part of my pessimism with optimism and peace, and a sense of satisfaction.
As literary input goes, reading is good and important. Memorizing poems, another way to take in well-written words, gives a very different sort of benefit. When I bathe myself in poetic phrases, I often find I have reduced, at least a little, depression and sorrow. Memorizing poetry installs effective healing words in me, words that heal while I memorize them and heal whenever I repeat them once I have them in my head and in my heart.
Learning a poem is more than just a nice idea or mental exercise (though it’s both of these, too). Committing a poem to memory gives a real and effective antidote to the sadness and malaise, the lack of energy or caring that everybody feels and knows from time to time. Yesterday morning I was Exhibit A proving this is so. I started the trip feeling crummy and not wanting to write anything. I administered a little poem memory and not long afterwards, felt more optimistic, more creative, and wrote this little essay.