Scintilla 2013 – Day 9 – Memorizing the Poetry of Robert Service

2. What is the longest thing you know by heart (for example, a prayer, speech, commercial jingle, etc.)? Why did you learn it?

There are a few. Every summer when I was spending my days with my grandma (who used to teach in a one-room school house back before she was married), I would read, read, read. I would memorize the states and capitals, the Magna Carta and Gettysburg Address, to name a few. I did this for fun, not because anyone was forcing me to.

But the main thing I read starting at a very young age, was poetry — more specifically, the poetry of Robert Service. He is one of my dad’s favorite poets. And I think it is one of the good memories I take away from my dad – one I will never let go. I started off with one of Robert Service’s shorter poems, “The Quitter” which to this day is one of my all-time favorites.

Then I moved on to his longer ballads, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” There’s something so raw, brutal and yet pure about his poetry. I love the cadence. I love that it is different from so much of the poetry out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mary Oliver, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Mark Stratton, Emily Dickinson, etc… (Hmm…I have a thing for poets named Robert, it seems!) But that is the beauty of poetry – each style – each poem speaks to the reader in a different way.

Why did I learn these poems? I think at the time it was because my older brother Jerry was memorizing those poems too and back then, I idolized my brother and if he was doing it, I wanted to do too as well. Plus, it was a way he and my dad communicated and I wanted to be part of that.

In the end, though, I realized how much I enjoyed the memorization and doing it just because it was fun.


The Scintilla Project

0 thoughts on “Scintilla 2013 – Day 9 – Memorizing the Poetry of Robert Service

  1. I think it’s neat that you learned those long ones! Holy cow. Also, I think these seem to fit in a way because they’re very boyish kinds of poems (like you said, “brutal”), and I’ve always pictured you as a kid being very rough-and-tumble and/or tomboyish… or at least not a girly-girl. I guess it goes with your outdoorsy-ness? Anyway, this is yet another thing I didn’t know about you. Great post!

  2. Holy Fudd…I’m shocked to be included in such a list as that. That you consider my little scribbles to be amongst your favorites makes me feel quite grateful. Thank you.

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