Maine, poetry, the farm

Weeding words: occupying your mind for hours

WEEDING. We do it. A lot.

Afternoons on the farm are often spent with hands and knees in dirt, pulling up flowering galinsoga, chickweed, purslane. We weed for hours and hours, and it is repetitive, hard and hot. By the end of the day I have a “weeding stripe”–a small band of sunburned skin across the lower back where my shirt has ridden up from bending over. And yet, I don’t dislike weeding nearly as much as I should. There’s something peculiarly…pleasing about it. The monotony. My mind drifts. I think about everything and nothing simultaneously. We talk; we are quiet. And when I get terribly, terribly bored (which I inevitably do) I turn to poetry.

A bit ago I read a NYT article titled “Got Poetry?” by Jim Holt, in which he discusses the merits of memorizing poetry. Most of us think of memorizing poetry as an archaic, useless task–we feel we can just look up a poem online or in a book. But Holt recites poetry throughout the day, when he is busy or bored, while running or doing laundry. It is his internal library, a way to occupy his mind–and so it occurred to me that I too could recite poetry to occupy my mind, during the sweaty, tedious hours of weeding.

Because I’d come to memorize only three poems during my time in high school–Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be” speech, Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall,” and Ted Hoosers “Grasshoppers”–I quickly ran out of material. I’ve thus taken to writing poems on small pieces of paper and slipping them in the band of my shorts or sport bra, to peek out intermittently while working and begin to commit to memory. So far I’ve learned Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” and am currently in the process of memorizing Matthew Dickman’s “Slow Dance”–a smooth, beautiful poem, you can read here.

I’m on chores this weekend with my farmmate Cassie, so I’m in need of a nap. Over and out,

Drew

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