Friday, April 9, 2010

Memorization: My Brain Won't Cooperate!

For the past few decades, I have enjoyed poetry privately. I would write original poems in a journal as an outlet, a means to express my feelings. I often read the work of others at my leisure. Over the past few years, I have attended several poetry readings where I discovered that poetry is oratory art! I have had the distinct pleasure of witnessing words come to life, right before my very eyes.

During the month of April, National Poetry Month, I will be reading my work at three poetry-reading events. I’ve participated in poetry readings before, but I read my work. My goal, this year, was to recite a few of my poems from memory. The problem is, I can’t seem to memorize them, not even the shorter ones. I don’t have any trouble remembering the lyrics to my favorite songs. However, when it comes to memorizing my poems, my brain won’t cooperate. I’ve tried and tried and tried. I can remember the concept, but my words, verbatim? Nope. I’m wondering if I will be forever married to the paper?

I’ve tried a few memorization strategies, but the one method I haven’t tried yet, is making a recording. Joseph Dempsey, in his article, “Tips for Memorizing Poems,” suggests making a recording if you want to try to memorize a poem when driving or jogging. Here are some of his other tips for poetry memorization (abbreviated, check out the article for more in-depth descriptions):

1. Choose wisely: Pick a poem you like to read and re-read.

2. Print a copy: Type up the poem and carry it with you, reading it when you get a free moment.

3. Read the poem. Then read it again: Read the poem in its entirety and then read it again.

4. Read the poem aloud: Hear how the poem sounds.

5. Look closely: Think about every word, what it means, what it sounds like, etc.

6. Make a recording: Record the poem and play it back when you’re unable to read it.

7. Break it up into sections: Learn one section; move on the next.

8. Take a break: Give the poem a chance to sink deeper into your long-term memory.

9. Use training wheels: Carry the poem with you as a cheat sheet, and glance at it when needed until you no longer need it.

10. Enlist a stage hand: Practice reciting the poem in front of others.

11. Keep reciting the poem to yourself: Instead of counting sheep to fall asleep, recite the poem.

Even if I don’t succeed in memorizing my poems, I will still exercise my presentation skills by speaking clearly and slowly and being expressive!

Do you have any tips for memorizing poetry?