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.
A Sad Child (Margaret Atwood)
You're sad because you're sad.
It's psychic. It's the age. It's chemical.
Go see a shrink or take a pill,
or hug your sadness like an eyeless doll
you need to sleep.
Well, all children are sad
but some get over it.
Count your blessings. Better than that,
buy a hat. Buy a coat or pet.
Take up dancing to forget.
Your sadness, your shadow,
whatever it was that was done to you
the day of the lawn party
when you came inside flushed with the sun,
your mouth sulky with sugar,
in your new dress with the ribbon
and the ice-cream smear,
and said to yourself in the bathroom,
I am not the favorite child.
My darling, when it comes
right down to it
and the light fails and the fog rolls in
and you're trapped in your overturned body
under a blanket or burning car,
and the red flame is seeping out of you
and igniting the tarmac beside you head
or else the floor, or else the pillow,
none of us is;
or else we all are.
Some of Margaret Atwood's poetry can be a little passe. Even pieces I really love are a little much sometimes ("Siren Song" anyone?). So, when Sharon Olds gave us the assignment to memorize one poem, I was a little worried about being seen as lame if I chose one of her pieces. I've wanted to memorize "A Sad Child" for some time, but decided instead to memorize a poem I'd read many years ago, which had stuck with me, though I'd forgotten the name of the poet: "I Go Back to May 1937." When I went to look it up, and discovered it was actually Sharon's poem, I decided not to be the world's biggest (if inadvertent) brown-noser, and went back to memorizing "A Sad Child." I think both poems get to the heart of childhood pain in similar ways, and "A Sad Child" was the very first poem I read (in a book that Roger gave me, no less) that made me think, Oh - poetry. Yes, this is something. The book it comes from, Morning in the Burned House, is a really lovely little collection, and a good introduction to reading single-author collections of poetry. I could not be more pleased with the journey that book started for me.
And now, we've gone through all the poems I've memorized thus far. I need at least two more to memorize to reach my little goal (one of them may indeed be "I Go Back to Pay 1937"), but of course, I want to memorize many, many more over the course of my life. If you have any suggestions for pieces you've memorized or pieces you would love to memorize, please let me know in the comments.