A Challenge: Memorize a Poem

Every poet knows April is National Poetry Month. And April is just about here. So why not challenge yourself, in honor of National Poetry Month, to memorize one of your favorite poems?  Do this for the joy of it. Select one poem from among your favorites. Make it one that you have not previously memorized for a performance or a reading. Make it one that you do not already partially know by heart because you’ve read it so many times it has already embedded part of itself into the fabric of your brain.

Consider this act of memorizing a creative exercise.  One that you are committing in an effort to not only celebrate National Poetry Month, but to also further your own practice as a poet.  

Accept the challenge to memorize all or part of your chosen poem.  But, be smart about it. Segment and chunk the poem in phrases, lines, or stanzas as you go. Know thyself in terms of how you’ll manage learning the lines best. If you need to consider the poem line by line over the course of a week or a month, then do it. If you are a quick study and can memorize a stanza or two easily within minutes or hours, go for it. If you need a few days or weeks, who is watching? If it takes you months, no one will be the wiser. This is not a competition.

Memorizing a poem is a creative and personal challenge.  So go pick a poem. Consider writing or typing out a copy of it to help you initially work through it.  Set the goal of memorizing individual lines first. Start small. Take the poem apart bit by bit. Honor the poem in your commitment to memorizing it.  Enjoy the words, the rhythm, the cadences. Remember that this is not a race. Unlike so many other things in our lives, there is no sense of urgency, other than committing to finishing what you start.

Try it. See what happens.

Memorizing a favorite poem may change your life. Or it may do nothing for you at all other than give you something to recite to yourself when you are stuck at a traffic light or going for a walk.

Both options could be wonderful. Are you in?

~Judith Lagana

When Creativity Calls

Being a good listener is not always easy.  Between real world and online connections, there are a lot of voices coming at us these days. Even if we have time to spare, remaining focused on what is being said in any conversation is challenging.

Experts say that the key to being a good listener is to tend to the task wholeheartedly.  This means focusing on a speaker's message while trying to withhold immediate judgement. This also means paying attention to any post-intellectual, psychological, or physical reactions we may have in response to what is being said. Listen first. Judge, react, respond, later.  

How might this be applied to our writing practice?

Writing is a creative process, so it stands to reason that all writers have an inner source of creative energy.  This creative energy has a voice, one that can energize us as we move through the stages of the writing process should we choose to listen.  Creative energy often manifests when we come across that which deeply resonates with us. It speaks to us when we feel inspired by another artist's work, albeit a piece of writing, music, or visual art.  These resonating moments usually come without notice and require that we pay attention to them. Some moments are akin to the loud person in the room whose voice and words rise above all else. In this case, if you’ll excuse the Arthur Miller allusion, attention can’t help but be paid. But what about those moments that are more subtle?  The soft spoken persons in the room also have something to say. Their words are equally worthy of our attention. 

The art of listening in conversation requires fully focusing on what is being said, even if we are not entirely interested at a particular moment. It requires trying not to get stuck in our own heads as we ready a comeback or think about how we will share our own take on things while another’s voice is coming our way.  For the writer who is fully engaged in the flow of creative inspiration, this means shutting down every doubt or inner-editorializing thought that might impede getting anything but the purest form of an idea down on the page.  Much the same way you would ask yourself,  “What might I learn from this person?" when engaging as a listener in a conversation, you should be asking yourself, “Where will this lead?” as you engage with your own creative ideas.  Listen and let inspiration take hold of the conversation. Those of us who note, afterwards, the psychological, emotional, or intellectual thoughts inspired by such moments of inspiration may be rewarded by new works-in-progress to add to our portfolio of work.

Giving of our full attention to the voice of our creativity is not always easy. But it is worth the effort. Allow the moments when your creative energies unexpectedly speak to you to fuel your writing practice.  Be available when your creative energies surprise you with a call.  Carry a pen and paper, keep your phone charged and have your digital recorder and writing apps at the ready. Pay attention. And, always listen.           

~Judith Lagana