Apr 26, 2013

POETRY FRIDAY: Making Memories

As I have talked poetry with friends (both writers and readers) over the last few months, I have heard many stories of favorite poems from childhood—poems that remain favorites well into adulthood because of the special memories they recall and their ability to plunge the reader back in time to a specific moment or place. I have always *known* that poetry serves as an emotional link for many people and explored this a bit here, but hearing more of these stories has reaffirmed this on many levels.   

My friend April shared one such story with me. When April was in the 5th grade, her teacher asked everyone in her class to memorize the poem Believe in Yourself by Edgar A. Guest. When the students had committed the poem to memory and could recite it perfectly for the teacher, they earned a special laminated copy of the poem. The first student to memorize the poem had “#1” written on her copy, the second had “#2,” etc.
April worked SO HARD to learn that poem, and really wanted to be one of the first students to memorize it. But even though she ended up with “#19” on her copy, she can still recite the entire poem from memory and values it both for its special message and for the childhood memories it brings back. The poem has such a wonderful message that I will share it here:   

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF                                                                                           by Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)
Believe in yourself! Believe you were made
to do any task without calling for aid.

Believe, without growing too scornfully proud,
that you, as the greatest and least are endowed.
A mind to do thinking, two hands and two eyes
are all the equipment God gives to the wise.

Believe in yourself! You are divinely designed
and perfectly made for the work of mankind.

The truth you must cling to through danger and pain;
the heights others have reached you can also attain.
Believe to the very last hour, for it's true.
That what ever you will, you've been gifted to do.

Believe in yourself and step out unafraid.
By misgivings and doubt be not easily swayed.

You've the right to succeed; the precision of skill
which betokens the great you can earn if you will!
The wisdom of the ages is yours if you'll read.
But you've got to believe in yourself to succeed.

One of my childhood favorites is “The Cupboard” by Walter De La Mare (to read it, go to my Poetry Page). Whenever I read this poem, I am very small again, mesmerized by the words and fascinated by the picture of the cupboard and “grandmamma” on the page. The old book it’s in sits on my shelf today, always ready to lead me on a fun trip down memory lane!

One last suggestion to celebrate National Poetry Month:
Take some time today to remember an old childhood favorite, and see what memories it brings back. The power of a well-loved poem knows no bounds!


  1. Dear Becky,
    Edgar A. Guest's poem is inspirational, isn't it? I remember reading some of his poems when I was in 7th or 8th grade.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Celebrate you.
    Never Give Up

    1. Thank you so much, Joan! I am so glad you are familiar with Guest's work--he was such an encouraging poet!

  2. Funny, I just patted myself on the back. This relationship between me and myself is going well today... .

    1. That is awesome, Mirka! The last line of Guest's poem is so true--we've GOT to believe in ourselves to succeed, especially in a field where editors, agents, and even readers either "accept" or "reject" what we've written. So keep on patting yourself on the back! = )

  3. I know there's value in memorizing poetry...I do! But that #19 makes me sad. But April remembers the poem and the events happily, so I guess all is good:>)

    1. I know--when April first told me this story, I was sad, too! But as we talked, I realized that when she memorized the poem, it became more about reaching the goal for herself than earning a number, and that lesson has stuck. Isn't it funny how childhood experiences can shape us so much? Thank you for your sweet, thoughtful comment, Laura! = )


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