90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Poetry in Your Head
Into the valley of death...

A detail from the manuscript of Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade" (Univ. of Virginia). Click on the image to see the full page.

In the era of the iPod, Americans can have anything they like, anytime, in their ears: hot music, the news, this show.

Jim Holt knows that, says it’s fine, but he’s stumping for something more. Something ancient. Something so old it’s new again: memorizing poetry.

He does it, all the time. He knows it may seem eccentric. Try it, he says, it’s a joy. A line or two a day, he says, and soon enough we’ve got a sweet gusher inside.

Jim Holt (Photo: Chris Kallen)

Jim Holt (Photo: Chris Kallen)

“She walks in beauty like the night.” “By this still hearth, among these barren crags.” Tennyson. Byron. Slam. It’s good for the heart and head, he says. Body and soul.

This hour, On Point: The poems we know by heart, and the unique pleasure of reciting from memory.

You can join the conversation. Have you tried it? What’s it do for you? Do you know a favorite poem by heart? Let’s hear it. Right here. Right now.

Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from New York is Jim Holt. He writes about science, humor, and philosophy for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere. His recent essay “Got Poetry?” — about how and why he memorizes poems — appeared in The New York Times Book Review.

And from Hanover, N.H., we’re joined by Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic.

A call to listeners:

We’re hoping you’ll bring your own favorites to the party. If you have a great poem you want to recite, from memory (no cheating!), then let’s hear it — call in this morning between 11am and noon Eastern, at 1-800-423-8255, and we’ll try to get you on.

And if you’ve got audio and/or video of yourself reciting poetry (from memory, not reading off the page), post the URL(s) in the comments section here.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Oct 2, 2014
Kurds in Turkey look over the border with Syria toward the embattled town of Kobani. (David Takaki / Twitter)

ISIS and the battle for control of the Syrian town of Kobani. The Kurds have it. ISIS wants it. The US is bombing. We’ll look at the lessons of the battle for Kobani.

Oct 2, 2014
Duluth, Minnesota's Canal Park Lakewalk, shown here in 2005. (Jacob Norlund / Creative Commons)

What makes a good place to live in America today? We’ll talk with the people who size up our cities and towns.

RECENT
SHOWS
Oct 1, 2014
Actress Eva Longoria, center, Henry R. Munoz III, co-founder of the Latino Victory Project, left, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, are seated at an event launching The Latino Victory Project, a Latino political action committee, at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, May 5, 2014. (AP)

Latino America. It is very large and growing very fast. How will it move the country?

 
Oct 1, 2014
Pro-democracy protesters hold umbrellas under heavy rain in a main street near the government headquarters in Hong Kong late Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. The protesters demanded that Hong Kong's top leader meet with them on Tuesday and threatened wider actions if he did not, after he said China would not budge in its decision to limit voting reforms in the Asian financial hub. (AP)

China, democracy and Hong Kong. They’re in the streets in Hong Kong with their “Umbrella Revolution.” What now?

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Transcript: Taking A Close Look At America’s Police Force
Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014

A partial transcript of our panel conversation with experts on the modern American police force.

More »
Comment
 
Transcript: Peter Thiel Wants Us All To Go From ‘Zero To One’
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel on innovation, technological failure and humanity’s uncertain future.

More »
Comment
 
Transcript: Sexual Violence Under ISIS Control
Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

A transcript from our September 25, 2014 conversation on the Islamic State and sexual violence.

More »
Comment