A young man at a desk memorizing a poem

How to Memorize a Poem

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed learning how to memorize a poem. If you want to keep the words of Keats, Frost, or Dickinson with you at all times, you’re not alone. Many people, myself included, find comfort in the power of poetry.

How I Memorize a Poem:

  1. Read the title and consider what I think the poem will be about.
  2. Read the poem out loud to get a feel for its sound.
  3. Write the entire poem out in my notes.
  4. Rewrite the poem on the same page, but only write the first letter of each word.
  5. See if I can recite the poem by looking at the first letters alone.
  6. Review several times on the first day, then return and review a few times throughout the week.

Here’s an example of a short but beautiful poem by Robert Frost called Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Alright, let’s run through the steps.

Step 1: Consider what the title Nothing Gold Can Stay means and what the poem might be about. To me, this title speaks about the fleeting nature of life and how all things beautiful will wither. It makes me want to appreciate the beauty of the day I have.

Step 2: Read the poem out loud. How do the sounds “feel” in your mouth?

Step 3: Open your note-taking system and write this poem word by word, paying attention to punctuation and capitalization.

Step 4: Write the poem again, but only the first letters.

N f g i g,
H h h t h.
H e l a f;
B o s a h.
T l s t l.
S E s t g,
S d g d t d.
N g c s.

Step 5: Now look at the letters alone, and see if you can recite the poem. If not, refer to the full poem for help until you can.

Step 6: Practice this several times today and a few times throughout the week.

Learning to memorize a poem is a gift to yourself. Soon, you’ll have a beautiful Robert Frost poem you can carry in your heart, at least until the gold inside of you can no longer stay.

Until tomorrow, read slowly – take notes – apply the ideas.


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