Michael Reagan: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...."
  • Michael Reagan: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary...."

Compiled by Sue Greenberg

A number of San Diegans were called on the telephone and asked to recite, on the spur of the moment, any poem they might know by heart. Some were up to the task; Laura Buxton didn't miss a beat. Michael Davidson immediately launched into Middle English; Jim Sills rattled off "Invictus" with dramatic flair. But a few struggled and were allowed to call back. (Clocking responses, though, there didn't seem enough time for them to dash to the library.) What follows are verbatim responses.

Laura Buxton, cohost, Inside San Diego, KGTV

"First Fig," from A Few Figs from Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • My candle burns at both ends.
  • It will not last the night
  • But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
  • It gives a lovely light!

Roger Hedgecock, talk-show host, KSDO

"Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • Listen, my children, and you shall hear
  • of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
  • hardly a soul is now alive
  • who remembers that winter of '75

Michael Reagan, talk-show host, KSDO

"The Raven," by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
  • Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
  • While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
  • As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
  • “’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
  • Only this and nothing more.”

Susan Golding, San Diego County Supervisor

"Ozymandas," by Percey Bysshe Shelly

  • My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
  • Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
  • Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
  • Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
  • The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Bruce Henderson, San Diego City Councilman

"Annabel Lee," by Edgar Allan Poe

  • Many and many a year ago
  • in a kingdom by the sea
  • an angel there lived whom you know
  • by the name of Annabel Lee

Jim Sills, chief of staff for Councilman Henderson

"Invictus," by William Henley

  • Out of the night that covers me
  • black as the pit from pole to pole
  • I thank whatever Gods may be
  • for my unconquerable soul.

Makeda Chestom, artistic director, World Beat Productions

Traditional rhyme (anonymous)

  • Little Sally Walker
  • Sitting in her saucer
  • Rise, Sally, Rise
  • Wipe your weeping eyes
  • Put your hands on your hips
  • Let your backbone slip
  • Shake it to the East
  • Shake it to the West
  • Shake it to the one that you love best

Robert C. Coates, judge, San Diego Municipal Court

"my father moved through dooms of love" by e.e. cummings

  • though dull were all we taste as bright,
  • bitter all utterly things sweet,
  • maggoty minus and dumb death
  • all we inherit, all bequeath
  • and nothing quite so least as truth
  • —i say though hate were why men breathe—
  • because my Father lived his soul
  • love is the whole and more than all

Michael Davidson, professor of literature, UCSD

Prologue to "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer

  • When that Aprille with his shoures soote
  • The droghte of March hat perced to the
  • roote.

Jose Sinatra (Bill Richardson), singer

"In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," by Iron Butterfly

  • In a gadda da vida, honeh
  • Don'cha you know that huh luv' you
  • In a gadda da vida, honeh
  • Don'cha know that I'll halllwunz buh troo-hoo
  • Aw, wontcha you come with me-hee-hee-hee
  • Anna take mah hand.

Jan Tonnessen, assistant manager, Wahrenbrock's Book House

untitled, by Kenneth Patchen

  • Elephants and Eskimos are the sort of
  • inventions makes me sure
  • that God has a couple three-four kids of his
  • own

Dennis Wills, owner, D.G. Wills Books

"Faust," by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  • I've read, alas, through philosophy, medicine, and jurisprudence too.
  • and to my grief, theology, with ardent labor
  • studied through.
  • And here I stand with all my lore, poor fool, no wiser than before

Danah Fayman, arts advocate

"Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost

  • Whose woods these are I think I know
  • his house is in the village, though;
  • he will not see me stopping there
  • to watch his woods fill up with snow

Brian Quinn, captain, San Diego Sockers

"Daffodils," by William Wordsworth

  • I wandered lonely as a cloud
  • That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
  • When all at once I saw a crowd,
  • A host, of golden daffodils;
  • Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
  • Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Vicky Wolk, managing director, Sushi Gallery

untitled, by Essex Hempill

  • Love potions solve no mysteries,
  • provide no comment on the unspoken

George Mitrovich, President, City Club San Diego

untitled, by Teilhard de Chardin

  • Someday, after mastering the winds,
  • waves, the tides and gravity
  • Man will harness for God
  • All the energies of love,
  • and then, for a second time in the history of the world,
  • Man will have discovered — fire.

Tom Homann, attorney

Odes, Book. 3, Number 13 by Horace

  • O fons Bandusiae splendidior vitro,
  • dulci digne mero non sine floribus.

Warren O. Kessler, M.D., urologist, president, San Diego Symphony Association, and vice chairman, San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture

"The Rise of the Ancient Mariner," by Samual Taylor Coleridge

  • It is an ancient Mariner
  • and he stoppeth one of three.
  • "By thy long grey bear and glittering eye
  • now wherefore stopp'st thou me?"

Stanley Fried, manger, Java coffeehouse

"X," from by e.e. cummings

  • a politician
  • is an arse on which everyone has sat
  • except a man

Paul Dobson, restaurateur

From Macbeth, by Wiliiam Shakespeare

  • To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
  • creeps in this petty pace from day to day

Kingsley McClaren, program host, KFSD

"Rain," by Spike Milligan

  • There's lots of holes up in the sky
  • that's how the rain gets in
  • those holes are oh so tiny
  • that's why the rain is thin

Bonnie Zimmerman, professor women's studies, SDSU

"Trees," by Joyce Kilmer

  • I think that I shall never see
  • a poem lovely as a tree.

Steve Kowit, poet

"O Westron Wind" Anonymous, 15th Century

  • O Westron wind when wist thou blow
  • that the small rain down shall rain
  • Christ that my love were in my arms
  • and I in my bed again

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