Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin’s Insight

“You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss.” Those are part of the memorable lyrics in the classic tune As Time Goes By.

Unfortunately, in today’s rush-rush society, we don’t remember much of anything.

At least, that’s the premise of a Sept. 16th NY Times article entitled Britney? That’s All She Rote.

Reporter Jenny Lynn Bader points out that Britney Spears forgetting the words she meant to lip-sync at the MTV Video Music Awards ws not just a monentary brain malfunction, she “joined the absent-minded ranks” of many other Americans who are “products of a culture that does not enforce the development of memory skills.”

The culprits? Bader says, “With cellphones, we don’t even kneed to know phone numbers anymore. With the rise of Web search engines, facts we once kept in our brains are now at our fingertips. Oration and recitation, once staples of the American school system, have largely been phased out.”

That’s exactly what former Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin said the morning after his opening keynote address at this year’s Maui Writers Conference.

The night before, Merwin had enthalled an audience of 1000 people with his lyrical reading of his Pulitzer-prize winning poetry. Merwin, a former resident of New York City, now lives in Maui with his wife Paula, choosing to nurture his creative nature by immersing himself in its tropical environs.

Merwin proved that anything can be a source of poetry as he shared a moving poem about a beloved dog that had gone missing and a poem written about the sound of torrentail rain on their roof. Everyone in the room was completely caught up in his waterfall of words . . . a unique and treasured cultural experience.

The next morning, I had the distinct privilege and pleasure of sharing breakfast with W.S. Merwin and his wife Paula in the presenters’ lounge overlooking Wailea Beach. He is much too humble to talk about this himself, however his wife told me that when they travel abroad, thousands of people walk miles to hear him.

We pondered why poetry seems to be valued so much more in other countries. We conjectured that one of the reasons is that U.S. schools don’t require students to study poetry anymore. Do you remember being assigned a poem and having to recite it from memory in front of your class? I do. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m able to remember hundreds of quotes and recite them on command in my presentations. I’ve had practice.

Comedian Henny Youngman said, “I have a photographic memory. I just haven’t developed it yet.”

Most of us don’t have photographic memories. The good news is, it’s not too late to develop it. The NY Times article claims that, “Contemporary scientists have discovered that memorization exercises can stave off dementia, introducing a new world of neruobics. Memory needs a workout as much as the abs do.”

The next time you see a quote or a short poem that stops you in your tracks, take the time to write it down and commit it to memory.

In my Concentration programs, I share two Focus Pocus secrets to polishing your memory skills (and remembering IS a skill, just like driving a car or playing the piano.)

The first secret is to repeat the quote or poem out loud in an exaggerated, rhythmic phrasing. Remember how we learned our A, B, C’s and nursery rhymes in a cadence? “Jack and Jill . . . went up a hill . . .” When you put words in a beat, you make them easy to repeat.

The second secret is to recite the quote or poem out loud without looking at your “notes” while walking. If you stay seated and repeat the sentence in your head, memorization becomes hard work.

By moving around and reciting the quote or poem out loud, you’re energizing and focusing your attention and aligning your right-left brain. This means you’ll be at your mental best and the physical activity makes this fun.

Furthermore, your ability to recite relevant quotes and provocative poems from memory will spice up your conversations and presentations and keep you mentally sharp. Such a deal.

Were you required to memorize quotes and recite poems in school? Did you dread it? Are you now grateful because quotes and poetry have become an important part of your life? What do you do to keep mentally sharp?

Be one of the first three people to respond with your memory tip or favorite quote or poem . . . and I’ll send you my 1 hour CD on Concentration: Focus Pocus depsite Distractions and Interruptions free.

Or, call 1 800 SAM-3455 for a special discounted You Can Concentrate package which includes my critically-acclaimed book ConZentration (which Stephen Covery called “fascinating”), a quiz to test your concentration skills, and a one hour CD you can listen to in your car or while working out.

Visit www.MauiWriters.com for

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