“Reading poetry – letting phrases wash over you and seizing on the passages that best describe a certain feeling – is a wonderful way to spend time. Committing those same poems to memory, so you have within yourself a storehouse of the most beautiful and, I would argue, useful words in the language, is hugely rewarding and a skill worth cultivating.”
~ Ana Sampson
I picked this book up in the library partly because of the exquisite cover and partly because of the title. Do you know any poems by heart?
About ten years ago I started keeping a little notebook in my bag in which I wrote some of my favourite shortish poems. Whenever I was waiting for the bus or in a queue somewhere or otherwise twiddling my thumbs, I would take out my notebook and learn a line or two.
I recommend starting with a poem that you love, here are some examples that I began with:
In the introduction of the book, Ana describes the process of memorisation:
“Once you’ve chosen a poem, write it out on a piece of paper to get a feel for the lines. Read it aloud several times, and you may find it helpful to walk in time with the poem’s rhythm and recite the words in time with your footsteps. Take it line by line: recite the first line until it is perfect (choosing a very famous poem will help here, as you will likely already know the opening) then add the second, and so on. Do not learn a new line until you can recite the previous lines perfectly. You might find it helpful to recite the poem daily, and attaching visual cues (or other prompts) to each line of the poem will enable you to walk through the lines without forgetting what comes next. Before long, the poem is yours: caught fast in memory and ready to be recalled when wanted and needed.”
‘Tis likely a very old-fashioned thing to do, and I’m glad I wasn’t made to learn poetry by heart in school as older generations had to. It probably would have put me off for life. But I’m often surprised by how much the lines of the poem become embedded in your mind and bubble to the surface at unexpected times. Little things – daffodils in springtime, an apple tree heavy with fruit, a summer’s day… and a line or two of the poem will wander unbidden into my conscious mind.
If you are interested in learning poems by heart, then I would recommend this book. It is brimming with ideas and inspiration.