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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.

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