I Lost My Head to Poetry
This week I responded to a poetry prompt from Kevin Higgins of the Galway Over The Edge group (next 10 week course starting early October 2016). this week The prompt required a poem whose title should be 'I have No' and then whatever you didn't have; suggestions ranged from things like money, to friends, hope, morals or bananas ... you get the idea. I chose to write a poem titled 'I Have No ...' and the forgotten last word is memory. It is a light hearted take on a serious matter, where the protagonist of the poem is experiencing early onset dementia, which is something I am aware could loom in my future.
I have never had a good memory at the best of times. As a blind person that is not helpful, and many blind people have staggeringly good memories which I envy. I have reached the point where I can commit 6 poems into my memory and be able to retrieve them almost intact at a poetry reading, and I hope with practice I might build on this to get up to a dozen memorized in time for my Dressing Up pamphlet which goes to print early next year with Cinnamon Press. For me it is essential if I want to perform them myself, since I can't read a printout of the poem and my Braille skills are not up to muster either. I know that I am not alone with this worry, and many sighted poets also would like to memorize their work for performance too but do not know how to develop those skills. The lovely people at Live Canon Poetry have been asked by a number of poets whether they would run a course helping poets to memorize their poems. I'm afraid my post comes a few days too late for a recent event, but it is well worth reading the info on their website learning / memorizing poetry (tips & techniques).
Photo caption: Giles L. Turnbull performing 6 poems from memory at Fermanagh Writers in Enniskillen, 14 June 2016; Photo by Antoinette Rock.
While you are on the Live Canon website check out the Live Canon 2016 International poetry competition which is open until 12th September and has a prize of £1,000.
Always inspired by the lure of a prize (in this case chocolate, if I recall!) I memorized a poem for my French class at high school, age 16. I can still remember it to this day, and I share it with you here. It was in the Tricolour textbook if I remember right, and it is called Le Brouillard, by Maurice Carême (Belgian francophone poet, 1899-1978).
Le brouillard a tout mis
Dans son sac de coton ;
Le brouillard a tout pris
Autour de ma maison
Plus de fleurs au jardin,
Plus d'arbres dans l'allée ;
La serre des voisins
Semble s'être envolée.
which roughly translates as "the fog is all around me / in its sack of cotton / the fog is all around / outside my house / all the flowers in the garden / and the trees in the lane / the neighbour's greenhouse / seem to have flown away."
Now this act of memorization makes me uncomfortable, and I don't mean because I find it difficult! I refer to the copyright notices at the front of publications, which state something along the lines of
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise).
I certainly consider my memory a retrieval system within the "or otherwise" envelope, at least that is what I want it to do. By reading any printed work, or listening to it read aloud, then I cannot help but introduce it into my memory and thereby store all, or part, in my memory storage medium.
It's probably a subject for a dystopian novel more than a poem, but I am genuinely worried for the day when there is a knock on the door and uniformed officials, let's call them The Poetry Police, turn up to scan my memory storage banks looking for poems that I am not entitled to. I suspect that the scanning technology will progress faster than the deletion technology and, on purely economic reasons decapitation will be the default action. I lost my head to poetry a long long time ago :)
#OverTheEdge, #CinnamonPress, #LiveCanon