October 23, 2021


Through Education Matters

Poetry and the Artwork of Memory

About 18 months ago, at age 79, I gave myself a new process: memorize 30 poems in five languages. I’m about halfway there—I’ve figured out 15 poems in 4 languages. Did I give myself this task for the reason that I worry about my cognitive decrease? Was I seeking to “pave new neural streets,” as Lisa Genova writes in “Remember: The Science of Memory and the Artwork of Forgetting”?

Like many People in america, I’ve seen dementia up close and personalized. My wife’s stepmother went from forgetful to paranoid to zombielike. Given that there is no history of dementia in my family, I really do not give it much imagined, yet 6 months in the past I had an unsettling senior second: I could not assume of the phrase “scone.” I said to my wife: “You know these mouth watering not-too-sweet factors we frequently had in London?” She replied: “Scone?”

It doesn’t bother me that I ignore people’s names or where I place my eyeglasses, but forgetting the word for one thing I like to eat was disturbing. A couple of months later on I could not assume of the name of the Italian soup I love—cioppino. It arrived to thoughts just after an hour.

But my choice to memorize poems had practically nothing to do with forgetting terms for food stuff. I gave myself this challenge following looking through the New York Situations ’s obituary of the literary critic Harold Bloom, who died in Oct 2019. In accordance to the obituary, Bloom claimed he could recite “the total of Shakespeare, Milton’s ‘Paradise Dropped,’ all of William Blake, the Hebraic Bible and Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene.’ ” If Bloom could memorize numerous epic poems, certainly I could memorize 30 limited ones.

The last time I memorized poetry was in superior college, when I had to recite Macbeth’s soliloquy that begins: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.” Ms. Genova, who is a few decades more youthful than I am, states that she as well had to memorize it in substantial school.