Tuesday, November 13, 2012


When we sent Max off to Kindergarten all those years ago I was sick to my stomach.  It wasn't just that my baby was starting school but I was sick with the all-consuming decision of which school we should send him to.

We had a plethora of choices.

They hung around us like ripe fruit waiting to be picked.

You see, here in the desert there are charter schools galore.  And they are great schools.  

I set up appointments at a handful of them to observe the classes, the teachers, the curriculum.  

In the end, we chose the local neighborhood school because for us it had more pros than cons.  I wanted my children to have a hundred "mothers" looking out for them as they rode their bikes to school (they still do and I love it) and I wanted to be close enough I could pop in and help as needed.  And it was (is) a great school.

But the biggest thing I lamented about closing the door on the other options was the fact that some of them required poetry memorization.  And there's something in me that itches to have children memorize poems and recite them in public.

I don't know why.  There's just something romantic about that to me. 

I reassured myself that I was the mother.  I could personally have them memorize and recite to my heart's content as they grew and blossomed in their education.

But years passed and other things like piano practicing and kicking soccer balls around took precedence over my dreamy notion that my children would be poetry-memorizers.  

And although it faded into the background of a busy life with five children, there was a thread of poetry calling to me from the recesses of the day-to-day minutia.   

When we were in Utah last year my parents invited Dave and me to tag along to their "Inklings" group one Sunday evening.  ("Inklings" is like their idea of a couples book club where they mainly talk about ideas and I love it.)

The night happened to be focused on poetry.

Each couple shared a poem that had touched them in some way and why.

Someone read one of my favorites:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,60
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come65
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

--William Wordsworth

They talked about the beauty of the phrase "make my pathway straight" that comes up over and over in the Book of Mormon.

They completely mesmerized us with this one:

The Long Boat
When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.
                --Stanley Kunitz

And hooked us even more when they had us listen to it here, so beautifully read by the author who was 100 years old at the reading.

As each couple explained why they chose the poem they chose, I noticed a similarity among them:  I think every single person said poetry was part of their life growing up.  Their parents read it to them.  They memorized it.  And man alive, these were smart people.  I couldn't help but wonder if the depth of poetry in their lives did, in fact, have a hand in making them as brilliant as they were.

And with that, my gnawing for poetry memorization was back in full-force.

I came home and ordered this book lickety-split:
(It was one that one of them said their mother read to them relentlessly growing up.)

The one I ordered (used) from Amazon was a little worn with use which made it even more beautiful to me.

I adore the illustrations.
And although it has STILL taken me a while to get it going, I have gradually started pushing the poetry memorization in our family.

I have loved giving the kids an option with our new money system to make up for lost check-marks with memorizing poetry.  We have also offered quotes for them to memorize like we did growing up (see here) which I adore...and scriptures too, but we pick which ones so that we can all memorize the same ones as a family.  That's the goal at least.

Isn't poetry amazing?

If anyone has any favorites to add to our memorization list please let me know.
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