Here I am reciting a poem by Yeats, on the the beach. The pauses are because I am reciting by heart. I am doing this in response to a creative challenge on the excellent Lateral Action blog… There is a podcast called 21st Century Creative. It is a first series and I really recommend it to anyone who is interested in creativity. You can go back and listen to all the podcasts. The last episode will be next week but there will be another season very soon. There are excellent interviews with many different creative people.
This episode the challenge was to learn a poem by heart. I do this on a regular basis for my own songs but this has reminded me that I wanted to do it for myself. In this way I can explore poetry from the inside. I also help my children learn poetry for their school homework and they love to do it.
I have developed techniques for memorization which include repetition, analysis of structures, rhyming schemes and visualization. It is always impressive to see how quickly my sons learn poems. They are very good at it but they are also good at learning in advance. In fact one of the main parts of memorizing is sleeping. This allows the text to really live inside of you.
I should really redo the poem and maybe I will this evening!
I will post the results here as I learn some of my favourite poems. There is a huge difference when we read poems and when we recite them.
The line “I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore” is pure music to the ear and in the mouth. It becomes clear when we recite it.
My version: filling myself up with music
As I learnt the poem I repeated it like a mantra, letting the music of the words, the images, fill me up. I recited the poem at the end of the day on the beach to my wife. It was a little difficult. I possibly should have learnt a poem in French but my wife speaks pretty good English.
Incidentally it is very interesting to listen to Yeats’ own reading of the poem : it is not at all the way I hear the music of the poem. You can hear his version at the bottom of this post. Yeats was not as fond of this poem as others are. For him it was a work of his youth…
Earlier in the day as I walked through the streets, reciting the poem, it began to resound more and more with me.
As I swam out in the sea in the evening, I imagined the “lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;” as I stood in the city surrounded with people (“While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core”) I tried to hear the silence and the calm that is at the heart of this poem. As the evening set (“There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings.”) I was looking at the golden cloud in the sky’s blue grey azure, trying to transpose this memory of Yeats’ childhood holidays onto this noisy mediterranean resort.
This wish to go, to leave where we are (“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,”) fills up the whole poem. I began to hear the poem from inside me.
Reciting this poem on the beach was fun as well, you can hear all the seaside noises…
Here is my recital for what it’s worth.
This will surely lead to some lyrics or words of my own… A personal version of the Lake Isle of Innisfree.
This is also why it is a great idea to learn poems: you then transpose those ideas onto your own material… And Yeats is no slouch when it comes to beautiful words…
Willian Butler Yeats
Here is Yeats’ version: