I've always liked memorizing poems, and since memorizing 10 is on my life list, I figured I'd bring us on a guided tour through the ones I've already memorized, and how they've treated me through the years.
Everything from Facts for Visitors (Srikanth Reddy)
She was watching the solar eclipse
through a piece of broken bottle
when he left home.
He found a blue kite in the forest
on the day she lay down
with a sailor. When his name changed,
she stitched a cloud to a quilt
made of rags. They did not meet,
so they never could be parted.
So she finished her prayer,
& he folded his map of the sea.
"Everything" is probably my favorite poem of all time, and one that has had a profound effect on my work since I read it in 2004. I read it in my first poetry class, my first year of college, and I feel like I've held it in my heart ever since. Memorizing it brought every line into clearer perspective, and having memorized a few more poems since, I think it was the most pleasurable to learn. I love "Everything" for the same reason I love Mrs Dalloway: the completeness of its brevity. I think I will spend the rest of my career trying to create something as full as those two works.
Reddy is also a poet I deeply admire, and his entire collection is exquisite. I hope this sampling* whets your appetite for more, because this is a book you should buy, whether you think you like poetry or not. He works out of Chicago, so I've only seen him read once, but he's also an incredible reader. You can hear for yourself at Poetry Foundation. Plus, he did the Iowa/Harvard program that I think is the greatest thing ever, so that's pretty incredible. I've been anxiously awaiting a second book from him since I finished this one, a few months after it came out.
Fun fact: I'm pretty sure that the ampersand at the end of this poem is where my tattoo comes from. The poem played a major role in our relationship. I cannot imagine not carrying this with me everyday. Without it, I would be a poorer human.
*I don't have permission to reprint this. Srikanth Reddy, if you have a google alert on your name and see this, feel free to email me and ask me to take it down. I can totally respect that. Other, more likely readers, go buy Facts for Visitors to assuage my guilt for breaking copyright laws. It's amazing.