Poetry Friday is hosted by April at Teaching Authors
I was listening to this lovely piece on the radio, which discussed the joys of learning poetry by heart in school:
It took me back to my early school years in an English school in Bombay. We were required to memorize so much: multiplication tables, poems, soliloquies, famous speeches, and all starting at a very young age.
We were taught to practice in front of a mirror, to emote and gesture, and to project. I remember being called upon to recite something at least once or twice a week - to stand in front of the classroom, assume the "I am now ready to recite" stance, and then go for it. My teachers were hard task masters, and in those days our classmates were not expected to burst into raucous applause every time someone presented something. You would complete your piece, take a small bow, then slink back to your seat and wait for the critique - and there were always some words of advice and correction.
As terrifying as all this could be, I grew to love memorizing and reciting poetry. So, when I heard Jean Sprackland say in the interview:" a poem known by heart becomes a part of you, and it's something that lives with you forever," I knew exactly what she meant. And then I tried to remember one of these memorized poems from long ago, my favorite, Tennyson's Crossing the Bar. .
The words came back to me as I drove home, minus one or two here and there:
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
I know that I could not have understood much of what my fourth grade self had memorized and recited all those years ago. But I had loved the cadence of it, and the serious purposefulness it implied. I practiced it a lot, and I remember that my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Fernandez, once asked me to recite it during our all-school assembly. A big moment. Even though the poem's meaning was somewhat of a mystery to me in fourth grade, and for many years, I loved it anyway. Which is, I think, the point Sprackland was trying to make.
And here is Tennyson himself "reciting" the poem - you really can find the most surprising things on You Tube!