Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memorizing poems

At a meeting of my poetry workshop this week the subject of memorizing poems arose. The leader of the workshop asked if any of us wanted to recite poems we'd memorized. It was surprising how few of us had any committed to memory, though we were all quick to cite favorite poems and poets. My editor has a surefire technique for memorizing poems that involves writing them out repeatedly, line by line, accumulating lines after a certain number of times of writing each line or set of lines. He claims that you'll never forget a poem you once memorize this way.

I'm still working on Stanley Kunitz' "The Round," which I was only able to recite imperfectly, remembering later the lines I had omitted. Carrying a poem around in heart and mind is a special delight. Have you memorized any poems in your literary life? Any special quotes or pieces of prose? How did you do it? I'd love to hear about memorization techniques and how common or rare it is these days to memorize poems.