Elliot Holt picks a poem on the first day of every month and reads it every day that month. He reads it aloud. Often he memorizes the poem. For Holt, this daily meditation on the same poem for a month allows him to move from reading the poem to embodying the poem. Read more.
Revisiting the same poem every day is the antithesis of the attention economy; instead of scrolling along the surface, I’m diving deep beneath it. As I walked around Brooklyn in January, Terrance Hayes’s final stanza slithered through my head: “You must look without looking to make the perfect circle./The line, the mind must be a blind continuous liquid/Until the drawing is complete.” The repetition of sound in “line,” “mind” and “blind” makes this line run together, like the “continuous liquid” it describes. And that sonic repetition also equates “mind” with “line,” suggesting that the conscious mind is straight and one-dimensional. Perhaps it’s only by disabling linear thinking that we can see how disparate elements of this world — including people — are connected.
When I read the same poem every day, I’m training myself to “look without looking.” By circling back again and again, guided by sound patterns, I let my subconscious do some of the noticing. Rather than consciously analyzing the poem, I focus on listening as the lines on the page release their music and their meaning. Repetition cultivates a deeper kind of attention, one that pushes past facile understanding to intimacy with the work.