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"Go Memorize a Poem"

In response to the following article from 'The Atlantic'– https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/go-memorize-poem/614692/


By Mehr Sohal

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/go-memorize-poem/614692/


I recently came across an article in 'The Atlantic' by Eliot A. Cohen, with this simple message– "In times of crisis, learning and reciting poetry can act as a balm." The crisis at hand, of course, being the over-looming COVID-19. However, you may be wondering why memorising a poem could possibly make this dreary situation any better?


According to scientific study, memorising a "robust" poem in these anxiety-ridden times can counteract the effects of self-pity; by offering a different means by which one can view the world. A historic example of the same being that during the WW2, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill would exchange entire poems or select stanzas with each other to raise spirits and morale. How intriguing!


I know that I, for one, have started reading much more poetry than before–and not just for school purposes. At the start of the lockdown, I had with me a massive collection of Carol Ann Duffy's poems. And now, I am proud to say that I have gone through several of her meticulous poems, and bookmarked around a dozen of my favourites. Upon reading 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou, I became absolutely in awe of both her and her writing and also started going through her collection of poems. The one poem by her that stuck with me is 'In a Time', and I most definitely may choose to memorise this as it is truly so relevant and apt with our current times:

In a time

In a time of secret wooing

today prepares tomorrow's ruin

left knows not what right is doing

my heart is torn asunder.


In a time of furtive sighs

sweet hellos and sad goodbyes

half-truths told and entire lies

my conscience echoes thunder.

In a time when kingdoms come

joy is brief as summer's fun

happiness its race has run

then pain stalks in to plunder.


I find myself reading poetry when I am tired of reading a book, or am sick with Netflix, and don't even want to look at my homework. I have always found this activity relaxing, fulfilling, and motivating; even before I came across the 'Atlantic' poem which opened my eyes to the relevance of poetry now. Therefore, I would urge you–however old you may be–to choose a poem or even a stanza from a poem that you may like to read and eventually memorise.


To quote Eliot Cohen, "[We] may find that in a time of need—maybe this time of need, maybe worse ahead—verse can help school souls that are, in fact, unconquerable."


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