One of the goals I am committed to achieve before I turn 40 is to have at least 40 poems memorized. I have about a dozen that I have mostly memorized. I'd like to have a repetoire that I can always have with me. I love hearing my Grandma talk about how she used to have to take classes like recitation and elocution. Memorizing beautiful words is not valued like it used to be. When I taught school I required my students to choose one poem a month to memorize. They'd recite it in front of the class. They had a poem that always stayed with them and the rest of us were exposed to a new poem we might not have otherwise heard. I recited my poems when I am doing housework and driving or when I can't fall asleep.
I am going to post my 40 poems here for the purpose of sharing them but also to help me memorize them. I will type them from memory, only going back to fix line breaks, capitalizations, and punctuation. I hope you'll enjoy some of the poems that I love.
To start building up to my 40, I have chosen one of my absolute favorite poems: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. H recently told me that this is her favorite poet of all the ones I've subjected her to. If you don't know May Oliver, she is a great poet to read. Her poems are beautiful and accessible. When I read her I have such a strong desire to be friends with her. She has such a deep and affirming view of life. She sees the spiritual in nature and then how it applies to life. If I could only read one poet the rest of my life, I would choose Mary Oliver.
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pepples of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the praries and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,
are headed home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.