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October 16, 2011


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I love the idea of memorizing the poems one loves, whether by design or by repeated readings. It is the best way to possess a poem truly, to "own it," as a student of mine said in a class in which there was a required recitation each week. Back in 06 I wrote an op ed piece for the Wall Street Journal advocating memorization of verse. In fact it seems to me that the general cultural devaluation of rote learning was a dreadful, even calamitous mistake. Thanks for the column, Amy, sweet as an unheard melody. -- DL

I love this Rome assignment, not least because I'm sure the students who got the Keats by heart will bring back the places they heard it and recited it -- Hadrian's Villa, etc. -- each time they hear or recite the poem again.

And a small note, in the spirit of David's comment -- I make sure my students understand the difference between learning by rote and learning by heart...

Yours in the common pursuit,


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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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This Way Out

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Ringfinger was nervous
Pinky terrified
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that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.



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