I have whined a lot here in the past, and I mean a lot… no, really… a lot, about how screwy my brain has become ever since I caught the leukemia bug nearly a decade ago and was deluged with excessive amounts of chemo.

Not to mention I still take a daily dose of the stuff as a prophylactic so I don’t come down with that nasty little bug ever again.

Anyway, long story short — I have developed some pretty heavy duty vestibular issues and other funky brain-related stuff as a result, so for the past little while I’ve been working on various techniques and exercises to try to strengthen the ol’ noggin up a bit.

You know, the usual brain-building stuff like crossword puzzles and other word game apps for the phone. Of course I write and read daily so that should help…

I hope.

But a couple of months ago I began doing something that I’ve always wanted to do but never found the gumption to get around to doing…

And that is memorizing stuff.

And by stuff I mean poems and Shakespeare monologues and soliloquies… well, at least one monologue and one soliloquy.

So far.

The several times I’ve tried to do this in the past I always got too bored or too frustrated and gave up.

But this time I was determined to see it through… determined to do whatever it takes to keep the ol’ noggin from flaking completely out on me.

The first thing I memorized was a carpe diem poem by Robert Herrick called “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”

You may be familiar with at least its first line Gather ye rosebuds while ye may from the most awesome Robin William’s movie “The Dead Poet’s Society.”

It was tough at first. That dang poem seemed to me to be so long that I didn’t think I would ever get it.

But after about five days – I would work on it before going to bed – I got that sucker memorized.

And all of a sudden it didn’t seem that long after all.

And then I went on to memorize Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” and then Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”

As I progressed, each poem got easier and easier to remember.

Then I got cocky and took on Shakespeare’s King Henry Act 3, Scene 1, the Once more unto the breach monologue.

Now that took me some time to get down pat.

But eventually I got it.

Next I tackled Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1, the To be or not to be soliloquy.

Got that one down after a few days of work too.

The last work I’ve memorized is William Earnest Henley’s powerful poem “Invictus.”

After the Shakespeare stuff that poem was a breeze to memorize.

But of course, when it comes to meaning and impression, size doesn’t always matter and Henley’s little poem gets me fired up like no other.

It’s become a ritual for me now to recite each of the poems out loud before hopping into bed and cracking open whatever book I happen to be reading.

I can’t tell you how encouraging and empowering it is to know that I now have such important works of literature locked away in my brain, ready for me to recall and draw from at a moment’s notice.

Another benefit is, since I always have suffered from serious ear worms – meaning, songs are getting stuck in my head constantly – I now can obliterate them by reciting in my mind what I’ve memorized. By the time I get through it all the ear worm has disappeared.

Anyway, just thought I’d share all that with you. You know, toot my own horn a bit in the guise of self-help advice and all that.

But hey, if you know of any inspiring poems or speeches that you think I’d might like memorize, let me know. I’m in the market.

One of these days I might even get the gumption to take down Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

One of these days…

*Rememborize is a word my oldest boy used to use as a little tyke instead of remember.

Featured image courtesy of this joint.

9 thoughts on “Rememborizing*”

  1. Haven’t had to fight disease, just aging, but I have memory issues too. I have to work really hard to memorize song lyrics, and the once I do, they’re gone again in a few weeks.
    My question: Do you rememborize a poem once you learn a new one?

    • Yep. Just as I’m about to have a work memorized completely I begin the search for what to memorize next. I’m getting ambitious for my next effort – The Declaration of Independence. Hard to appreciate how complex – and long – the work is until writing it out fully in long hand. Wish me luck. 🙂

  2. Oh my, I just hate memorizing things, maybe because I can always look it up on Google…However, I did spend several days (due to resistance of brain cells) memorizing the lyrics to “Pancho and Lefty” so I could sing along without wondering what comes next. The other issue is, even if I memorize something it is definitely not “locked away” in my brain. Brain is more like a leaky sieve. I’m lucky I can remember the spelling of words like “sieve”…


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