25 mar. 2010

I can't really do the" ten most influential books" meme, because I don't think primarily in terms of books but rather of authors. In terms of influence i think about influences on my poetry, my scholarship, and my thinking generally. I have no idea how to choose 10 books. I also don't want to choose the books that I wish had influenced me. I'm wary of how such lists could be aspirational. I'd rather list books that I have tried to memorize word for word at certain points of my life. If I've memorized a good portion of a book maybe you could say it was important to me.

Claudio Rodríguez. Don de la ebriedad; Casi una leyenda. Writing my dissertation on CR is memorized a lot of the first book. I found it convenient to work on poems in my head without having to have the text in front of me. Later, when the second came out, I memorized quite a bit of it. From other books by him too, I know quite a few poems still.

Shakespeare. The Sonnets. I've never memorized all the sonnets, but maybe a good third to half of them at one time or another. I could probably only recite you three or four today.

Lorca. Romancero gitano. Those poems are so easy to remember it's almost hard to forget them. Of the 18 poems in the book I've memorized at least half at one time or another. I can look at one and rememorize it quickly.

Salinas. La voz a ti debida. I had a manic idea of memorizing the 70 poems in this book at one time. I don't really know it today, but I could probably learn some of them again if I wanted to. Typically, I would memorize a poem simply by teaching it, and then move on to other poems that I wasn't even teaching. I don't know that I memorized the whole thing. I forget.

Hernández. Cancionero y romancero de ausencias. That's my next project. Very memorable material.

It's interesting that only one of these books is in English. I've memorized a lot of Keats, WCW and several other poets writing in English, but not whole books. I've memorized a few of Keats's Odes, but they aren't a book, are they?

I know there are memorizers and non-memorizers--among poets and students of poetry. I've always been in the former camp. That also means, of course, that I am a prodigious forgetter of poems. I'm pretty good at that. Memorization really shapes my view of the poem. The poem becomes a part of me. When I say it out loud it is as though I were speaking my own words, or as though the poets were speaking through me.

I have to respect the non-memorizers because they work without the advantage of having the poem in their head. They must feel very sure of themselves, without that crutch of having the poem accessible at all times in the memory--in case it is ever needed.