I started my published writing life as a poet. I’d always read poetry, as did everyone in my family. Poetry was recited in the house regularly – it was part of my growing up. I did a weird subject available in Queensland called Speech and Drama which required students to memorise poems and learn to read them on the page. At a practical exam, armed with the anthology of the grade, your examiner would tell you to turn to a certain page, and you’d need to read the poem for clarity and emotional truth. I suppose it was a bit like a musician reading music.
I still memorise poems – a few years ago I began learning a poem a week while I walked the dogs. Then the little dog became too old to manage a poem length walk and my husband retired and began to walk with me, which meant talking-and-walking and the habit dropped away. Recently I’ve reinstated it.
I think it’s an enormous help for anyone writing poem to actually memorise other people’s poems. I’m not at all interested in learning my own – but when I learn other people’s I ‘hear’ the nuances of the phrasing, the odd falters and the bold, wild triumphs.
Every so often I’ll post a poem of my own here, or an out-of-copyright poem I’ve enjoyed learning.
Catherine Bateson’s new poetry collection has at its centre three lively sequences that address the hard graft of spiritual negotiation. Imagined for present, past and future times, each of them tracks the slow and the sudden dissolution of love – yet love stories they are. Her characters are distinctly and originally conceived, with a habitual […]
At the heart of this collection is the powerful sequence “Notes from Ward Seven West”. It opens with the haunting meditation “This Is the Poem”, winner of the prestigious John Shaw Neilson Award. In poems about women and their lives as daughters, lovers, wives and mothers, Bateson plays with different voices adeptly and compassionately. Longer […]
I began memorising poems a few years ago and then got out of the habit, partly because I started learning French, partly because the little terrier became too old for a poem-learning length walk and then because I went overseas for five months. I decided I’d go back to it – not as a New […]