Well. This project got meta real quick.

Poetry, by William Stafford

I had already chosen the poem for today’s recording. It wasn’t this one. This one wasn’t even in my book. I’d memorized it, technically, but I always have a little trouble with one line or another; no recitation had quite come together.

I was walking up Hillsdale last week (straight up it, headed for the radio towers at the top as directly as possible from my house.) It’s a regular small delight to speak poetry as I walk (usually not out loud out loud, but these days the streets are pretty empty, and I’m less cagey about my weird habits.) This particular dawn, I’d given myself the task of reciting every poem in the memory book so far. For this I had snapped a picture of the table of contents, the only prompting allowed.

The first poem listed is I Go Down to the Shore. I got to that one, and I did complete my cumulative recitation. But what came out of my heart and my mouth first, surprising me, was William Stafford’s joyful, sly, maybe a little bit salty celebration of the power of poetry itself. And it kept coming back, between other pieces, and this time I remembered every line.

I’ve been thinking more than usual about my Stoic practice lately, expanding my knowledge on the subject, and re-reading Marcus Aurelius again—maybe for pretty obvious reasons. The bit in Poetry I used to trip over most is this:

…If great people get distracted by fame, they forget
this essential kind of breathing, and they die
inside their gold shell…

Which are lines old Marcus would have loved. Suddenly I’m having no trouble at all remembering them.

Poetry: “Its door opens near” indeed. Not always where you expect it.


If you enjoyed this post, please consider memorizing your own favorite poem, and sharing it with a friend. Or me. I’m on Twitter at @PDXpersky.

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