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Memory and Poetry

March 24, 2015 , ,

shrimp plant

shrimp plant


Our memories are not accurate, but serve as a guide to learning more about what might have happened. We fill in the blanks with what we are told or what is presumably common knowledge when we think about the past. This was never so clear to me as when a group of my elementary school friends recalled our childhood together after 50 years. Most of us remembered different versions of the past, with a few striking exceptions. The most hated teacher was remembered in her worst aspects. None of us could recall her being nice at all during the entire 5th grade year. The memories had become more like cartoons than real events, with only a few details sparking us to bring up related stories.  The only event we all vividly recalled exactly the same was an incident involving a girl who spewed vomit out of her nose. In the third grade this made a very big impression on all of us.  I believe the intense olfactory element of the memory is what made it so specific.  We laughed about it, but this was the most memorable shared experience we had from our time in elementary school.  She was not present, but she was the center of attention for a while.

Good and romantic memories may be built on delusion or on fables that are repeated and slightly altered by each person who tells them.  We recall certain details and omit others to patch together a self-fulfilling story of cause and effect. Our dreams and pastimes create  frameworks for the past to become a fairy tale, and our self-image a sport.  Time changes our perspective and buries much of the unpleasant reality under a blanket of foggy forgetfulness.  We are all in the same memory soup in this sense.  None of us is a reliable witness to anything we experienced in the past.  Some choose to highlight the suffering, and others feature past success or accomplishment as the anchor to the ship of self-definition.  The overriding emotions blur the facts, and that is all perfectly normal.

I remember writing poems and songs when I was very young.  I have no examples of any of it, but I am sure I was prolific.  I sent poems to magazines for publication.  I saved my rejection letters because I was into my role as a poet.  I played piano and clarinet when I was very young, but switched to baritone ukulele, then later guitar for my role as teen folk singer.  My first job in life was as a singer and a costumer when I was 17 years old.  I traveled to North Carolina for the summer theater gig my high school choir director had helped me land.  My mother and aunt drove me across Tennessee, stopping at the Grand Ole Opry to see a show.  Minnie Pearl was on stage…memorable Minnie. I arrived in Cherokee, North Carolina in high spirits because I was working and living away from my parents.  It was my high dive into the deep end, and I was thrilled. “Where am I going with this?”, you may wonder, gentle reader.

I am returning to some kind of remembered roots in this blog for the month of April, 2015.  I will participate in #NaPoWriMo and create 30 poems in 30 days right here.  I have been enjoying a period of study and immersion into poems and poets, and now will boldly commit to the creative task of being a poet all next month. I have done enough creative ventures in my life to know that there are many different tastes, and therefore room for all kinds of art.  After April I will resume my matter of fact writing style.  I hope my poetic posting will please you. For me it is a big stretch beyond my present boundaries, and that is why I want to do it.  If you send rejection letters I will be perfectly understanding.   By publishing I am already moving beyond my childhood limits.  I believe it is good to find a new high dive into the deep end from time to time.



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March 24, 2015

Thank you very much!!

Liked by 1 person

Pamela Morse

March 24, 2015

Very smart and astute piece on how memories are recalled. It’s often what causes “situations” to be repeated when people can’t recognize or learn from the pluses & minuses of what they add to the relationship equations.


Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

March 28, 2015

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