A long time ago, memorizing poetry was par for the course in school. Communities had poetry recitation contests, and poetry was frequently printed in the newspapers.
Now, it is unusual if a student is asked to memorize anything beyond the prologue to Romeo and Juliet. But if you allow it to, the memorization of poetry can enrich your life, expanding your mind and bringing beauty to even your darkest days. If you remain unconvinced, please read the following:
Memorizing poetry turns on kids’ language capability. It not only teaches them to articulate English words; it heightens their feel for the intricacies and complexities of the English language — an indispensable attainment if they are to go on to speak, write, and read English with ease. Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, argues that memorization builds into children’s minds an ability to use complex English syntax. The student who memorizes poetry will internalize the rhythmic, beautiful patterns of the English language. These patterns then become part of the student’s language store, those wells that we all use every day in writing and speaking. Without memorization, the student’s language store, Bauer says, will be limited: memorization stocks the language store with a whole new set of language patterns.
It also stocks those bins with a generous supply of the English language’s rich accumulation of words. Research suggests that the size of a child’s vocabulary plays an important part in determining the quality of his language-comprehension skills. The greater and wider the vocabulary, says education historian Ravitch, the greater one’s comprehension of increasingly difficult material. Bauer points out that if a student reads a word in a novel, she might or might not remember it for later use. But when she commits it to memory in proper context (as the memorization of lines of poetry requires), she is much more likely to have it at her mental fingertips for use in her own speaking and writing.
So, the benefits of memorizing poetry are varied and deep. It’s free, uncomplicated, and has lasting, powerful benefits. This plan includes twelve poems. If you memorize just one a month, in one year you will have twelve powerful poems that will be yours forever.
Using these simple steps and techniques, you will be able to learn the poem without too much difficulty. You already know the lyrics to about a bazillion songs. All songs are is poetry. You can do it. Take the time to practice it. Really try to learn it.
This plan contains suggested poems for memorization, along with an explanation of the poem, study helps and review sheets. It also contains suggestions for further memorization and resources to develop your relationship with poetry. The poems do not need to be memorized in any particular order.
General Poetry Resources:
Poetry Recitation Competition
Poetry for Schools: This site has poems specifically selected by Poet Laureate Billy Collins to be used in schools. The “180” in the title stands for the 180-day school year.