How I Memorize a Poem

Poetry club is approaching its one year anniversary and I have to say, it has been a lot of fun. When Susan and I came up with the idea, I had just discovered poetry. Yep, sixty years of not appreciating it at all. In fact, if a poem was embedded in a novel, I generally skimmed or even skipped it. But a few years ago, thanks to Molly Fisk at the Sierra Writers conference, I discovered that poems are meant to be heard aloud. And I started reading them out loud when I came across them and listening on-line and discovered what poetry is really all about. The club, with the goal of helping our aging minds stay agile, has provided me with new experiences.

But memorizing…ahhhhh…..we all go about that part of the club in different ways. AND we have discovered then during times of stress in our lives it is impossible to memorize. All the tricks that work during “regular” times fail to provide the same function.

Here are the steps I take to memorize. Read the poem over several times. Start with one line. Read and recite about ten times. Eyes open, eyes closed, sitting, standing, walking. Print out the poem in giant font. (Okay, I hesitated admitting to this because, yep, I know it’s akin to talking on the phone or texting in the car, but the sole purpose of the giant font is for it to be on the passenger seat in my car so I can work on memorizing while driving. I only glance at stop signs. Honest.)

When I’m up to three or four stanzas I sit in front of the computer and type it over and over. I stare at the ceiling and visualize the written version in scrolling script across the white paint and read it.

I recite it in the shower. I mentally recite it while swimming laps or waiting in line.

I type it again, with giant, bold font on the words I have omitted or substituted. I use tricks to remember if the first line is should and the third line is wanted or vis a versa.

But when I’m stressed? I can follow these steps and the next day….nothing. The poem hasn’t stuck around.

What does this say about our mental function in other areas during times of stress? Decisions, conversations, business transactions. These are all impacted by a mind that can’t hold information.

Just saying.