If you have ever admired the lyrical nature of a beautiful speaker or speech, or sat in awe of how a jaw could wrangle words like that, and express the thoughts and feelings of the speaker with such remarking eloquence, you can almost be sure that their tongue was tutored by poetry somehow.
Recitation. Elocution. Oration. These three sisters devotedly cook in the House of Poesy. Ever was it thus.
When words from verse make their way into the heart, the possibility arises to become a more poetic and beautiful speaker. And then when you see or feel a need arise, those words are there at hand - waiting to aid in expressing what is most true - most beautiful - for you.
For fragments of a poem to find their way into your language and the way you speak that poem must be nestled into the bed of your heart and it must be given love and care as it decides to stay a good long while. Those three sisters have deep capacity if they are called upon.
This requires artful practice and attention.
When it comes to beauty making, our minds usually go to our fingers first. Craft. Art. All that is possible because of our ability to articulate with our thumb and fingers. The hand isn’t the only place that we articulate though. It is also tracked in speech. To have beauty available as a habit in our mouths is a skill not generally cultivated. There are ways people are inspired and encouraged to make something creative with their hands; a much rarer skill is to speak and invoke poetry that is appropriate and nourishing in certain moments. A courtship with the tongue. I’d say there is a deep relationship between these two kinds of articulation. In a time bereft of capacity to witness beauty, committing poetry to heart is a way to bring it in. It’s a discipline to have beautiful thoughts circling in your head instead of the more common and often caustic ones.
Together in small groups of up to eight people, we will memorize three poems in four weeks. Work. But absolutely doable work. I will select the poems for length and memorability - not to make it easier, but to make a smoother way forward and to make it possible to recite them together.
In our time together, you will learn the principles of how to approach memorizing poetry and how to recite, share, and listen to poetry with each other during the class and during the week you’ll get prompts and encouragement to keep going. How this worthy work will show up in your speech and in your days is veiled to us - for now. It is an experience designed to set the first cobbles into the ground for what can become a lifelong path.
This is not a course in poetry analysis or discussion of meaning, though snippets might show up. The focus is on the skill of oration, elocution, listening, play, aliveness, and sharing.
Over years of trying different methods of memorization, I came across (I didn’t invent it) a method that makes it much easier, applicable to prose and poetry and helps with long and short term memory. I have helped people who didn’t know if they could do it or if poetry mattered to them to find their way with this.