Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Poems We Keep on Paper and the Poems We Memorize

I've been sorting through books, lots of books, as it is time to cull the collection.  My new office will have limited space for books; I'm trying not to see it as a sign, but as an opportunity.  Why have I been keeping all these textbooks?  Especially since I can now find much of this work online--and who has been putting all these old works online?

Lately I've also been thinking how these lines get in my head and pop up at strange times.

As we participated in the worship life of Mepkin Abbey, which involves praying the Psalms multiple times a day, I expected to have the Psalms in my head much of the time.  That's how it's been during prior visits.

During this visit, however, I found stray lines of classic English poems in my head.  At first, it was lines from Coleridge and Eliot, those lines I played with earlier this year (see this post and this post).  Then I had the line, "Shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man."  I couldn't quite place the poem; at first I thought it, too, was from "Kubla Khan."  Then I remembered that it's from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

I've also had the Wordsworth line about laying waste our powers in my head.  And the Thomas Hood poem about the seamstress who is sewing a shroud as well as a shirt.

So far, they haven't swirled together into a new poem.  But they do work to provide interest and comfort at key moments.

It's why we memorize, after all.  So that those words will be there, even when the texts (whether on paper or via electronic resources) aren't.  One of my Mepkin friends was required to memorize lots and lots of poetry throughout her school years.  She can recite all of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  I'm jealous.

Of course, I have memorized lots of Bible verses.  I just wish I had memorized more poetry to go with it.

I've also been thinking about another type of poetry form, the hymn.  I often find stray lines from hymns weaving their way through my day.  Happily, they're usually hymns that I like.

My friend is coping with her mom who has Alzheimer's, and I don't want to blog too much about it, since it's not my story.  But my friend is wondering if singing hymns together might not be a way to establish a connection.

From that nugget, a short story idea is forming in my brain.

Alas, I cannot play with that idea right now.  I must go to work, where I will lay waste my powers with countless e-mails and sorting of old papers.  But there will be lunch with good friends, a sacrament of sorts.  There will be the joy of opening an old textbook and finding something like what I found yesterday:  "Interesting writing prompt:  discuss the insane narrator in 19th century British Lit."  There will be a nationwide call in which we discuss the redesign of our English Comp approach--that might feel worthwhile, or I might need shrieving afterward.

At least I have finished the webinar trainings that had to be done by the end of Feb.  I have completed the quizzes on how to protect privacy in an electronic age and how to help my team manage conflict.  Happily, my team of a department doesn't experience much conflict, so I haven't had to deal with the ugly behavior that was reenacted in the webinar--do grown ups really behave in such awful ways to each other?

I know that they do, and I feel lucky not to have to deal with that.

And maybe, just maybe, as I go about my day, a line or two of poetry will swirl together.  I need to get back to a writing rhythm.

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