Poetry embedding journal

My goal is to memorize a poem by embedding it into a mountain. Then, recite the poem as I hike it again.

I’m doing this to remember both the poem and the mountain trail for life, to experience the poem as a journey, and to use the mnemonic associations to enrich my understanding of the poem.

The poem is the book length ascend ascend I still need to do a walking reading around my home to determine recitation time, but I’ve bought an action camera and several batteries to record the trail so I can practice at home, and try to align the hiking traversal with the space between loci.

Practical problems I anticipate are controlling breathing, my mnemonic method being too primitive and inflexible (more on that later), loci harvesting may need a second or third hike even with a camera, and the timing of the hike vs the poem length being too different.

For memorizing, I’m trying as much as possible to use the images in the poem and place them at spaced loci on the trail. So I took the first book, broke it into 4 sequences, and wrote down all the concrete nouns and actions. I’ll take a second pass to collect sound associations. I’ll use the nouns and verbs as images, the sounds as a secondary mnemonic. In further practices, I’ll add different senses and emotions to make the image more concrete, and try and include the loci and surroundings in the created image.

I haven’t included a peg system, but it might be helpful to have something give each mnemonic a sequence, beyond it’s physical location. Knowing that mushrooms like teeth and loam like mouth is the seventh image in the 3rd sequence would help me not to miss or skip an image right? Perhaps I could repurpose a spiritual cycle or philosophical series as a peg to avoid awkward and unpoetic combinations? (Sequence 1-4 could be the stages of awakening, or images 1-10 could be the ten oxherding pictures)

Should I use myself, characters, or a mix to act out and interact with the loci in something like a story?

Any other tips or advices?

I go hiking on Monday, rain or not, and I’ll continue building sound associations until then.

I’ll try and improve my methodology as I go, wish me luck!


Got the camera, waterproofed hiking gear, the first book of the poem broken down a bit, and I’m going to hike tomorrow, super excited! I got enough storage and battery for 6 ish hours of film. I think my first pass will just be a steady rhythm, wide angled continuous shot. I’ll note loci along the way, and also see whether I can pick out loci from the film.

To do list:
IPA transliteration of the first book
Recite poem over video, and place the images into loci
Test recall

Improvement ideas:
Associate hand gestures to lines of poetry
Find and apply an ordered peg system (I think tarot or a bestiary would be cool to use)
Adapt individual images for greater mnemonic strength


Almost at the mountain. I tried subvocalizing the first of the 7 books. It only took me 12 minutes which is less than I originally estimated. That would put the whole book at under 2 hours. When I start embedding, I’ll either have to take into account the difference by slowing recitation, leaving gaps of silence, or placing the start of the poem higher up the mountain. Finishing the poem at the peak is an absolute necessity just for it’s symbolic power, but starting at the trailhead would also be meaningful. I might switch out the mountain for a smaller one…


Went to a smaller mountain, took about 5 hours of footage. Got attacked by a monkey and lost the trail, so it was a pretty eventful trip. I took the mountain I had done loci placement on back down, and it was informative how many, how well, and which loci I could remember.

Some lessons learned today for placing loci on a trail and recitation:
Seasons change plants in both setting and appearance, so they rarely make good loci, vivid though they may be.

Tall loci are better than short ones. (Both in presence and in standing tall above seasonal tall grass)

Loci off the trail are usually worse than loci on the trail. If you have to search for your loci, that’s going to interrupt recall.

Loci have to be distinct, otherwise, similar loci need to be divided and sequenced (maybe with pegs)

Reciting up a mountain requires extra breathe training, good cardio, and good fitness.

Learned lots of technical stuff about action cameras too, if anyone is interested.


My side project of memorizing all the names and faces of students in my school is halfway done.

I’m going to edit out the extra footage tonight to get a concrete journey with a concrete travel time.

Still need to tape myself reading ascend ascend to get the time for that, and do an IPA transliteration of the text.

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Video editing from zero experience was a bit difficult. Now I’m well on my way, and since I’m just chopping and pasting footage together, shouldn’t take too long. Encoding poetry from the video and from memory is the next challenge. Tomorrow I’ll start memorizing for real!

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total climb time was about an hour (still need to chop off stops and rests)

total recitation time is 40 minutes.

The film I have is angled a bit low, but I tried memorizing from the shape of the trail (it was a chest cam, but as I leaned forward, and traveled up an incline, it ended up pointing mostly to the ground for the trek) Will post about how sticky the locations are in the next few days. Next week I am tentatively planning another hiking trip to get wider footage.

Difficult finding loci looking down at the floor of the trail. Developing an eye for Rock shapes, trail textures, bends, etc. seems critical to the endeavor.

I’m transcribing the text. I write repeated phrases in red, nouns in blue, and actions in green. It really helps me to feel the various interconnections. I’m really trying to hear it (transcribing it into IPA as well) and it helps it stick in my short term memory better

Redid the mountain trek, this time with more lateral footage so I can see ahead and around the trail. (While maintaining necessary precautions) I did a dramatic reading holding my kindle, and I found out that the trail length very serendipitously approximates the recitation time of the poem (confirming a hunch I had in editing the older footage). Maybe I can finally start for real now! I’ll keep this post updates with my daily practice from here on out

Brief review of the first few lines I have in by rote. Hoping to really get encoding this Thursday. I think I should try and schedule it around roleplaying on Wednesday even though time is tight. Maybe a brief review Tuesday/Wednesday?

Ran into lots of technical errors loading it onto my device and only managed to memorize a page so far. The images on the trail are vivid enough, but I want to see how encoding more goes. My small concern is that my encoded images will be unable to be decoded months from now. Sure I can do more practices to make sure I dont lose recall, but maybe a verbatim system would be better afterall

Went over what I had, included lots more elements, retuned images, and used the space of the trail whenever possible. Increasingly enjoying the feeling of the trail, the foliage, and the images which are becoming increasingly intimate

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Since the last post memorized a few more pages

Old images are still holding, I’m able to remember a lot during each sitting, and I get a visual feel for the trail as I go, so I can traverse both poem and trail in my head as I go.

Daily updates like I intended are hard for a disorganized person like myself, but I’m committed til the end and will record my progress here as I go

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I’m up to 5 min and 30 seconds of poetry and trail. Next time I get the chance I’m going to try it with a third person mount for the camera

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Let’s breakdown some of the images. It’s a visceral and grotesque poem, so be forewarned.

The lotus isn’t very distinct, as I don’t know what a lotus looks like very well, but the primacy effect is holding the mnemonic well enough.

26 stones on the back of a large spider, myself as a zombie dancing,
worms and maggots emerging from the black earth, grabbing a handful of loam,
mushroom sprouting from the rim of the trail like teeth, imagining the world chomping down on the trail than gnashing

Touch stones and rocks, lifting them up to reveal lava

Throwing up on a fallen tree, than moss grows over it

Decodes into
Blessed is the lotus the days bleeding wound
Blessed are the spiders their alphabet
26 stones my corpse is dancing
Blessed are the worms, the maggots,
(Slightly obscene line)
Through the rotting soil
Blessed is the loam, the darkness
Mushrooms blooming teeth pushing
Through the Earth s black and putrid gums
Blessed is the maw, the great maw, the mouth
The gnashing of continental shores

Blessed are the stones the rocks, the island, all the world a promontory scab, hardening around the world’s myriad molten wounds

Blessed is the blood, the bile ascending,
The gross moss of Shapeless years forming, over the eyeless trunks of trees

Update. Stopped advancing due to vacation lethargy, which is regretful because it would have been more fulfilling to work on this.

But! All the images are holding well, I’m able to recite the memorized portion of the poem backwards (in chunks, since I didn’t encode by word)

More discoveries: there are parts where the pace and the length of the trail remind me that there is more content, kind of like placing the abstractions in a location without the image (“oh, and this part of the trail there was another line, something about rocks”) which is definitely weaker mnemonically speaking than a solid image. So abstraction+location<image+location
But the former is still usable


Added another 2 minutes of poetry. This time I encoded quickly and off the cuff, trying to encode more content quickly.

I’ve had to settle for images outside the poem a few times in this section, because it got more abstract. For example: descendants=ants descending in a chain
Be the vessel= bee in a vest

I might go back and find an archetypal image for descendant…maybe imagine me and my wife’s future child?

Back on track! Noticed some fray in the memories in a certain portion because the image wasn’t striking enough. It’s difficult (people might say needlessly so) to keep the tone and solemnity of the poem and efficiently use the memory palace method. I foresaw the difficulty from the get go, I just think the visual-mental experience of the poem is as important as memorizing it.

Small update: patched up some rough spots. Trying to catch repetitions in the poem consistently

Did a slow, total review. I spent more time at each loci really, sensually, interacting with the images. Smelling, touching, tasting. I watched them, and I watched them beyond the usual allotted time, just interacting and moving.

The images feel more personal, relaxing, and memorable, and the act of memorizing feels more meditative, more spiritual.

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