This is the poem I chose to learn first.
Not quite four a.m., when the rapture of being alive
strikes me from sleep, and I rise
from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How
magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought.
And then I hear
outside, over the actual waves, the small,
perfect voice of the loon. He is also awake,
and with his heavy head uplifted he calls out
to the fading moon, to the pink flush
swelling in the east that, soon,
will become the long, reasonable day.
Inside the house
it is still dark, except for the pool of lamplight
in which I am sitting.
I do not close the book.
Neither, for a long while, do I read on.
The memorization part was relatively easy. Although when I'm away from it for a few days I get a couple of things mixed up or change words. But I was amazed at how different knowing a poem by heart is from reading it many, many times. Mary Oliver, I read, doesn't like to give interviews. She prefers to let her poems speak for themselves. After awhile, when the words started to become more familiar, I found myself in an intimate conversation with the poet. The words chosen and the order they were chosen began to reveal an internal rhythm that I might not have noticed in a reading or two or three.
go to another room
choose a book
temple of of thought
(a temple where we worship...we worship thoughts!)
Then sound outside
...moving into stillness
As I continued this process I understood yoga and meditation follow this same process. We learn...often by rote at first. But the learning by heart...the leaning into the conversation with my practice...that's what taught me and continues to teach me.