Sunday, December 13, 2009

Discover a Memory House

Simonides of Ceos. a 6th century Greek poet-philosopher, spoke at a banquet to celebrate Scopas' victory in a chariot race.  His oration focused on the Gods, Castor and Pollux instead of the victor.  Scopas, in irritation, told Simonides he would only pay half the poet's fee. He should ask his two Gods to pay the rest. 

At this point, two men called Simonides out of the room.  When he left,  the palace collapsed and killed everyone. In amazement and relief, he thanked the Gods for "paying half his fee" and saving his life.

During the search for survivors, they asked Simonides to identify guests because of his exceptional memory. He did this by recalling their positions seated at the banquet table.  Later, Simonides expanded upon this ability to remember by designing what he called a "memory theatre." 

He created loci (plural of the Latin locus meaning place) in each room of his building. When he walked through the rooms mentally, he associated an item with each room.  By forming an image between what he wanted to recall and a feature of the locus, he created a linkage.  In retrieval, loci determined the desired memory.

The ability to map items and memories provides a way to discover ideas for poetry. When considering what to write about,  I travel back through houses experienced.  Then I begin with a freewrite and make sensory connections to my memory home. 

Here's a start:

 I  turn my key in the lock and hear the creak of the front door's opening. The door's strength reminds me of my father's hands who could break an apple in one twist.  I scurry up the stairs, feeling the nap of the maroon carpeting between my toes.  A scent of candle wax mingles with crackers to turn my head and bring memories of my mother's formal dinners. The Grandfather clock's chimes follow me up to the second floor.  My bedroom meets me with fresh ironing smells the sun brings through the curtains and horse sweat from my riding boots. My jacaranda tree blooms in lavender and teases me through the window.

Once I have created a map to connect rooms from the freewrite, I go back in and make additional notations to add  thoughts and feelings.  Additional freewrites will spur me in a variety of directions.  Several poems will results from the connections.

Creative Write:  Choose a home you have lived in for memory retrieval.  Make a chart of each room and select objects.  Then wander through each room and create a line of text that hitchhikes off the items. See where your memory takes you in sights, sound and scents.  After the initial freewrite, go in and make additional connections.

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