Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Poetry Challenge--more fun than you think!

So... on June 1st, the uber-impressive Dan Wells issued a Summer Poetry Challenge. Then, his almost-as-impressive brother, Rob Wells, (just kidding, Rob!) spread the word on his blog, which is where I read about it. The basic idea is to memorize one poem a week over the 12 weeks-ish of summer.

I haven't memorized poetry since college, but thought I'd give it a go.

Join the challenge!! C'mon! All the cool kids are doing it!!

Because I didn't hear about the challenge until last Friday and Sunday is the day you're supposed to check a poem off your list, I'm giving myself until June 12th to have my first poem memorized.

Dan set out some rules. I would say you can flub it if you want, but the guy writes horror--realistic enough horror that I'm not sure I would chance it.
The rules:

1. It must be a poem you don’t already have fully memorized, but it’s okay if you already have some of it memorized.
2. You must recite the entire poem, out loud, from memory, for at least one other person, on Sunday. That gives you slightly less than a full week for the first one, so pick something easy.
3. There are no length restrictions, but if all your poems are little quatrains or tiny nursery rhymes you’re cheating in spirit. Throw a few multi-stanza poems in there; you can do it.
4. No William Carlos Williams allowed. There will be zero tolerance on this point.
5. Everything is done completely on the honors system. If you say you did it, we believe you.

My first poem is one I've always wanted to memorize, but never have:

She walks in Beauty
George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron. 1788–1824

SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

I have always loved this poem. On the surface it seems like just another love poem, but look more closely. This isn't a "I got the hots for you because you got it goin' on" poem. Her physical beauty is described, yes, but we see more than that. The subject's internal beauty is praised as well. In fact, a great deal of effort is made to connect the two--that her goodness makes her that much more beautiful. (Now that's what a woman really wants to hear--that she is loved for who she is, not just what she looks like.)

Are you gonna join in the fun? Got a poem in mind? Share! Share!


Kimberly said...

What a great choice. I absolutely adore that poem, ever since I first read it during my high school English Lit class. LOVE!

Shanda said...

Poetry is just one of my shortcomings. I mean, I did memorize "Casey at the Bat" in 9th grade, as well as some sonnets by Shakespeare. Oh, and "If." And "The Road Less Traveled."

Yet I have never read this beautiful Lord Byron poem, and I'm a little ashamed of that fact. I'll take it as a sign that I must join in on this poetry challenge. Mind if I use this poem for one of my twelve?

Sarah M Eden said...

Shanda -- Even if you don't memorize it, the fact that you have now read it makes me happy.

Robin Weeks said...

I'm playing! I memorized Question by May Swenson last week, and I'm already burning through The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe this week (3 out of 4 stanzas mostly memorized).

Everyone should play!

RobisonWells said...

Glad you're joining the party, Sarah!

By the way, while I make no secret of the fact that I'm not a poetry expert, if I had to guess one poet you'd be memorizing, it'd be Byron. You're SO predictable. GOSH. :)

Sarah M Eden said...

Rob Wells. I'll admit Byron was predictable. But you won't see next week's poet coming. It's like the poetry equivalent of a ninja. Or something.

Melissa Lemon said...

Love it! Thanks for sharing.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I'm not jumping in on the challenge (my brain will splode) but if you're looking for a couple, these are poems that I had my 8th grade students memorized because I loved them (and they liked them). Also, they're kind of easy to memorize: O Captain, My Captain by Walt Whitman and (of course) Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost). Oh, and the first stanza of Longfellow's Paul Revere's Ride is long enough to count and really fun to say. Oh, and Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson) is great. "Cannons to the left of them, cannons to the right of them." I like that one.

Melanie Jacobson said...

Um, my personal taste is a little different as far as what I read for fun, btw, but Billy Collins "Litany" is worth looking up even if you don't memorize it. Makes me laugh every time. Oh, and I can totally see you doing Shakespeare's sonnet 130 (My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun).


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