How to Memorize a Poem–Ideas here are from Immersed in Verse (p.94 & 95)
The more you repeat your poem, the more it will become second nature with no awkward pauses. Memorize it over the coures of many days. It’s better to devote 20 minutes a day over five days, for a total of 1 hr. 40 min. rather than to spend four hours in one night.
Time spent between memorization is important. The lapse of time between the lines you learned, and then coming back to them on days that follow, help you take the memorization from short-term to long-term memory. The day spent memorizing, a day off, a day spent memorizing, a day off pattern can help you to eventually be able to retrieve your poem quickly without hesitation.
1. Repeat the first line until you can say it 10 times fluently.
2. Repeat the next line until you can say it 10 times fluently
3. Repeat the first two lines together 10 times.
4. Memorize the third line next. Then repeat the second and third lines together. Then the third and fourth lines. Then the fourth and fifth, and so on.
5. Continue memorizing your lines in overlapping pairs so that you’re practicing the transition from one line to the next. This will give you experience moving easily from the end of one line to the beginning of the next line.
6. Your final recitation will be more fluid, without long pauses between lines.
7. After yo’ve made it through the entire poem working the overlapping pairs, go back and attempt to recite four lines at a time, then six lines, thus increasing the size of your groupings until eventually you can recite the entire poem.
Other Tips for Memorizing Poetry–Ideas here are from Immersed in Verse (p.94 & 95)
- Relax–it’s easier to memorize when you’re relaxed
- Get rid of background noise
- Combine techniques: listening to the poem, saying the poem, writing the poem, reading the poem, acting it out, setting it to music, dancing to it, etc.
- Memorize a poem you like
- Memorize while sanding up so your whole body can be involved in the process
- Create memorization movements to go with clusters of words. Movements can be remembered more easily than words.
- Speak your poem out loud as you repeat the lines. This gets your body involved.
- Use a tape recorder.
- Memorize the last part first so that it is as smooth as the first half.
- Use other memory methods such as pictures, initials, phrases, associations, and movements to help you remember the word that comes next.
- Speed-through rehearse if you know the poem but say it haltingly, forcing yourself to keep the flow going. If you can do 10 speed-throughs in a row, you are probably ready to recite in front of an audience.
Extended Learning: Memorize a Poem
Listen to the way words unfold inside you. Naomi Shihab Nye.
- “Alone,” Maya Angelou
- “I Love the Look of Words,”Maya Angelou
- “Edward, Edward,” anonymous–traditional
- “Girl Scout Picnic, 1954,” June Beisch
- “Winter: Tonight: Sunset,”David Budhill
- “The Fish,” Elizabeth Bishop
- “The Tyger,” William Blake
- “Cynthia in the Snow, Gwendolyn Brooks
- “We Real Cool,” Gwendolyn Brooks
- “How Do I Love Thee?” Elizabeth Barret Browning
- “Red, Red Rose,” Robert Burns
- “Reverence,” Julie Cadwallader-Staub
- “A Man Never Cries,” Jose Craveirin
- “Blessing the Boats,” Lucille Clifton
- “On Turning Ten,” Billy Collins
- Introduction to Poetry,” Billy Collins
- “I’m Nobody,” Emily Dickinson
- “Arabia,” Walter De La Mer
- “Silver, Walter De La Mer and an audio version of the poem
- “The Ordinary,” Kirsten Dierking
- “The Sacred,” Stephen Dunn
- Winken, Blinken & Nod, Eugene Field
- “Owl Pellets,” Ralph Fletcher
- “Fireflies, Paul Fleischman
- “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost
- “Goodbye, New York,” Deborah Garrison
- “I Want to Say,” Natalie Goldberg
- “I’d Love to be a Fairy’s Child,” Robert Graves
- “Daydreamers,” Eloise Greenfield
- “Summer Kitchen,” Donald Hall
- “Cottonwoods,” Phebe Hanson
- “Be My Mistress Short or Tall,” Robert Herrick
- “Mashed Potato Love Poem,” Sidney Hoddes
- “Childhood of the Ancients,” Andrew Hudgins
- “April Rain Song,” Langston Hughes and an animated version and a choir version
- “Bring Me All Your Dreams,” Langston Hughes
- “Dreams,” Langston Hughes
- Dream Deferred, Langston Hughes
- “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Langston Hughes
- “Winter Moon,” Langston Hughes
- “Song To Celia (II),” by Ben Jonson
- “Night Song,” Molly Jordan
- “A Thing of Beauty”, John Keats
- “If” by Rudyard Kipling
- “From Blossoms,” Li-Young Lee
- “Drying Their Wings,” Vachel Lindsay
- “An Indian Summer Day on the Prairie,” Vachel Lindsay
- “The Arrow and the Song,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- “Snow-Flakes,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- “Climbing,” Amy Lowell
- “Has My Heart Gone to Sleep?” Antonio Machado
- “Allah,” Siegfried August Mahlmann
- ”Sea Fever”, Masefield
- “Faith Metheny, Edgar Lee Masters
- “Boy Juggling a Soccer Ball,” Christopher Merril
- “A Warm Summer in San Francisco, Carolyn Miller
- “Petals,” Pat Mora
- “Sidewalk Racer,” Lillian Morrison
- “House Made of Dawn,” Navaho chant
- “Ode to the Black Panther,” Pablo Neruda
- “Ode to Lemons,” Pablo Neruda
- “Ode to My Socks, “Pablo Neruda
- “Ode to a Watermelon,” Pablo Neruda
- “The Highwayman,” Noyes
- “A Summer Day,” Mary Oliver
- “A Visitor,” Mary Oliver
- “Wild Geese,” Mary Oliver
- “At the Beach,” Kemal Ozer
- “Driving at Night,” Sheila Packa
- “Night Journey,” Theodore Roethke
- “Fog,” Carl Sandburg
- “The Season’s Campaign,” Joyce Sidman
- “Spring is the Time,” Joyce Sidman
- “Spring Splashdown,” Joyce Sidman
- “Stone,” Charles Simic
- “Traveling through the Dark,” William Stafford
- “Fifteen,” William Stafford
- One Home,” William Stafford
- “You Reading This, Be Ready,” William Stafford
- “Watching the Jet Planes Dive,” William Stafford audio version
- “Pot Roast,” Mark Strand
- “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Wallace Stevens
- “Another Feeling,” Ruth Stone
- “A New Lifestyle,”James Tate
- “February Twilight,” Sara Teasdale
- “Break, Break, Break,” Alfred Lord Tennyson
- “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,”by Dylan Thomas
- “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, William Shakespeare
- “How like a winter hath my absence been (Sonnet 97), William Shakespeare
- “New York Notes,” Harvey Shapiro
- “The Swing”, Robert Louis Stevenson
- “The Last Things I’ll Remember,” Joyce Sutphen
- “The Eagle,” Alfred Lord Tennyson
- “O Captain! My Captain!, Walt Whitman
- “The Writer,” Richard Wilbur
- “This is Just to Say,” William Carlos Williams
- “Bluebird,” Judy Young
- “Lord Randall,” Anonymous
- Famous Poems
- Site with classic poems for children, including recordings by the poets
- LINKS TO VARIOUS POEMS