In the US and Canada, April is national poetry month! (Sorry, Great Britain, you'll have to wait until October.)
Since memory is one of my favorite topics, I'll take a look at memorizing poetry in this post.
To most people, memorizing poetry sounds like something out of 19th century schoolhouses or 1960s beatnik coffee shops. The truth is, there are plenty of good reasons to learn to memorize poetry, especially if it's something you want to do, as opposed to something you're being forced to do. In Five Benefits of Memorizing Poems there are the usual education reasons. If that's not enough, Ten Reasons You Should Memorize Poetry expands on this, including some reasons that are right down my alley, including:
1) It is a brain challenge. Got a kid with a strong memory? I’ve got some long poems for you. Interested in history? Learn a poem based on a historical event or some of the poetry of that period. For anyone seeking a way to challenge a gifted child in way that is free (!) and virtually unlimited, you’ve found it. Even copying poems down (or lines of poems) and illustrating them is a wonderful activity for younger children.Some of the other reasons might not seem as impressive, such as the entries about keeping us connected and being a bridge among disciplines. If you take those lightly, check out Be a Man. Read a Poem. from the Art of Manliness site.
8) It’s a great party trick. If you’re ever stuck for a spur of the moment talent, you’re in luck if you’ve got a poem in your mind you can whip out and recite from memory. It’s easy, it needs no props, and you will not be doing the same tired trick as everyone else. Unless they read this blog.
Once you appreciate the benefits, how do you go about doing the actual memorization? I've written quite a bit about memorizing poetry in past posts, but there are many more approaches. New technologies make it easier to memorize than ever before. In Essay on memorizing poetry - at the gym talks about using crib sheets while exercising, although these crib sheets could be recording or videos on a mobile device of poems you wish to learn, as well.
Mensa For Kids' A Year of Living Poetically lessons are a good selection with a great structure. The poem is presented, broken down, and once the poem is memorized, there are varying types of quizzes to test your knowledge.
A more adult version of this same approach is used in Shmoop.com's poetry section. For example, their guide to Poe's The Raven includes not just the poem text, but an intro, a summary, an analysis, a quiz and much more! Their poetry section also has plenty of classic choices, and is a great place to look for material.
Another good source is the book Committed to Memory: 100 Best Poems to Memorize. You can even find the full intro and a majority of the selections from this book at poets.org.
Remember, memorizing poetry should be fun. Looking for a fun short piece to memorize right away? How about this ironic choice, titled Forgetfulness by Billy Collins: