The Memory Book

A little while ago, I took some leftover matte medium and pasted a tiny collage onto the front of an extremely cheap blank notebook.

There was no reason for this; it was not a project’s beginning, just an experiment. (Does matte medium work in this capacity? Yes. Will it seal the ink from my preferred pens without smearing? No.) If it worked, I imagined I might eventually discover a use for the physical object.

Today, it is the genesis of a memorization project I’m starting now, and continuing for a year. What does this have to do with you? I’m posting every poem I memorize as an audio file right here.

Embarrassing? Definitely. I’m trying to learn something.

The project has, as yet, no name, and certainly isn’t full-up with poems, or committed to a final form. So I could use your help with it.

I have some things to say about why I’m doing this, and how, (and memory, and death, and meaning), and they are the subject of my April column at Nicole Dieker dot com. I would be delighted if you read them.

I’ll also tell you how you can participate right now, because in the interests of coming to this complexly—the way things actually exist—I kind of bury the lede in the link above:

1) Take a chance on listening to my (short! I promise!) recordings. You’ll have a new chance twice a month, for the next year. Send any thoughts or questions or suggestions via comment or email. Share with friends who might enjoy the poem.

2) Help me name this undertaking. Right now it’s getting vaguely called after the little blank journal (no longer entirely blank). The Memory Book, for the present. It’s hardly inspired. If you have a suggestion, I’m all ears.

3) Suggest some poems to me. I can’t guarantee I’ll love them or that my brain will want to learn them, but I will be glad to read them and find out!

First poem is coming soon. Meanwhile, consider yourself warned. ;)


*This is also my last column on the creative practice at Nicole Dieker dot com, because Nicole is wrapping up the blog portion of her site. Which is a decision that makes sense for her, and also, I will personally miss her insightful posts on writing, finance, and the creative life. Fortunately, I have copies of her excellent fiction, which also considers (among many more) those themes.


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6 thoughts on “The Memory Book

  1. poem ideas: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye, When I Am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver, Dying Well by Heid E. Erdrich, Walking through a Wall by Louis Jenkins
    I could go on…
    I’m looking forward to following along on your new project!


  2. Lovely idea, Tara (I read this post as well as the longer version at Nicole Dieker’s site). Here’s a poem by Heidi Barr I can recommend. It, too, was written before the pandemic, but I read it this week just before taking a walk on a foggy morning.

    Coming To Our Senses

    Maybe we need
    to be cured by

    a rainstorm’s earthy flavor
    a wildflower’s intoxicating scent
    the view of stars at night

    a misty morning fog tickling naked skin
    the echo of a hawk’s piercing cry.

    Maybe we need
    to come to our senses
    and wake up
    to the beauty of the world
    that lives more fully
    when we notice all the parts.

    Heidi Barr ~ Cold Spring Hallelujah (Homebound Publications, 2019)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been thinking about memorization myself lately. I need to learn some tricks for it because I can’t ever remember so much as the titles of my own work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My trick, if such you can call it, is to repeat and repeat and repeat the poem, usually while I’m walking. The rhythm of my footsteps, and just putting in the time, seem to be the main ingredients.

      I don’t remember if I ever formally learned how to memorize poems. My technique feels like maybe someone did teach it to me: I start with the first stanza, then when I think I’ve got it I add the next, etc—so by the time I’m working on the final stanza, I have to go all the way through the whole poem every time.

      As a teenager, I memorized all of The Highwayman this way. Unfortunately, I don’t still have that one to memory. It’s a daunting prospect to imagine re-acquiring it…


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