I've been getting ready for a reading tomorrow. I'll have two and a half minutes, not a second more, and I've been practicing so that I'll be certain I can fit in two poems and know how long they will take. The pressure's on.
At a reading last summer, one poet recited all her poems from memory. Look ma, no paper in my hands. I was really impressed, and I said so to her at the reception that followed. She then told me that she found memorization to be a really good tool for finding out new things about a poem. She had even discovered changes that she wanted to make.
I thought about one of my earlier poems, a poem that I can read with a lot of feeling partly because I have read it publicly quite a few times. I know it well, not just the way the words shape in my mouth, but the emotional textures and flow. I can put some power into it.
Memorization can provide a shortcut to that. It's like careful reading for the ear. The little rough spots or unintended repetitions might not be visible on the page, but I notice them when I read a poem out loud. What the eyes miss, the ears hear. And what the ears might even miss, they will catch if they hear it over and over again.
I've caught a couple of things in these poems I'm going to read tomorrow, even though I've read them before. It's a fast intimacy, and one that I would do well to strive for earlier in my work, and in all of it.