Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Memorizing things

I am working on an ongoing poetry/dance collaboration with Kathryn TeBordo, the most recent iteration of which will be a duet poetry/dance duet this Saturday in Philadelphia. Anyway, yesterday we were working on the thing and especially practicing memorizing the poems, so that we could say them in unison while dancing. And while memorizing with her, I realized that it has been a long time since I have memorized anything. Long ago, in 9th grade Latin class, I memorized declension endings with a kind of urgent passion I can still remember. I like to memorize things, like poems and lyrics to songs, because to me knowing means truly knowing if there is a drive to do so. The act of memorizing the poems with Kathryn made me think about how in schools it used to be quite customary for students to memorize poems and how this is basically a practice out of favor now (or one that has no space in most struggling public schools). Still, the experiential act of memorizing the constructed words of the poems yesterday was especially magical to me and worth noting here. In a poem, there is a space (and I mean space, as there are spatial relations in a poem's syntax) that one can walk through while reading. It is a deliberate space, as any piece of writing is. But more so than any other writing, a poem makes most obvious the object relations of words to themselves and to the world around them. When one puts in the work of memorizing poems, they become more in tune with the material state of words, their specific and magical states within specific poems. This is good. Schools should do more of this, but not in the way that they do so now. Now so, schools test memory by simple binary relationships of questions to right answers (I am thinking of NCLB testing most specifically). The right answer is simply the construction of things that are beautiful. Once you begin to know that, you can know anything. Or more so, you are well on your way to knowing.

Now memorize this song: I Just Want to Love You video because it is good.

No comments:

Blog Archive