“When I was a little kid, first thing I memorized were really long poems by A. A. Milne. Then I went through a Kipling phase. I could say ‘Gunga Din’ for you. Then I went into sort of a Shakespeare phase, when I was about in sixth grade. In high school, I loved loved loved Edgar Allan Poe. Still love him. I could say ‘Annabel Lee’ for you now. I used to know even some of the shorter stories by heart. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’—I used to be able to say that.
“I still memorize poems. I know ‘The Waste Land’ by heart. ‘Prufrock.’ Yeats is good. I know a lot of poems in French by heart. A lot of Dante. That’s just something that has always come easily to me. I also know all these things that I was made to learn. I’m sort of this horrible repository of doggerel verse.”
- Donna Tartt
Pick a poem, a passage, an essay and commit it to memory.
Bel Esprit Editor, Emily Menges's pick to memorize for April:
"When I first came across this quote by Donna Tartt, I immediately started memorizing large swaths from her book Goldfinch, which I can still recite for you today; in fact the picture for this challenge is my favorite portion I memorized, it sits on my window sill. But even without that, it's in my head. I can take it with me anywhere. I believe in it and I can call upon it at any moment. Memorizing comes with a different level of understanding.
But I think I'll branch out this month. I'll have to look around and find something good. Maybe a Joan Didion essay, yes I'm still in my phase. But I'm kind of inspired by Donna Tartt's memorization of The Waste land. That was the poem TS Eliot was writing when Ezra Pound came up with the concept of Bel Esprit in the first place. How appropriate."
- Emily Menges
(If you participate in the monthly challenges, tell us who or what you pick and share your revelations on our Letter to Editor Page or on social media.)