Sunday, March 13, 2016

Tips for Memorizing Poetry

With all the great poems and lays in Tolkien's work, I often find myself wanting to memorize them so I can bring them with me wherever I go.  I have memorized a fair amount of poetry and verse from both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings, and these are some tips I have for anyone aspiring to remember poems.

#1. Read and reread
This may seem obvious, but it is the best way to begin to get a handle on the phrasing and the words themselves.  The more you read the poem the more likely you are to remember parts.  Read it over seven times at a certain time of day (such as just before going to bed) for a few days, and eventually you will begin to remember lines without reading then.  Keep in mind though that everyone memorized things at different rates and it may take you one day or eight to get the poem down.

#2.  Write it down
You have to read it once on the paper, then write each word slowly, reread to find your spot again and continue writing.  This is a very effective way of remembering things which is why teachers make you take notes in class.  It is also a more involved and less passive way of absorbing the information.

notebook, writing, pencil

#3.  Pick out favorite lines and branch away from them
In the Fall of Gil-galad, one of my favorite lines that really stayed with me when I read it for the first time was, "his sword was long, his lance was keen".  I then memorized the line just before it ("between the mountains and the sea") and just after ("his shining helm afar was seen") and continued to branch out.  By remembering a key line to anchor yourself into the poem, you can work on branching out.

#4.  Remember key rhymes
Poems with rhymes are great because all you have to do is remember the rhyming words on each line.  For instance, in Aragorn's Rhyme, I remembered "glitter, lost, whither, frost, woken, spring, broken, king" and I could fill in the words from there, "All that is gold does not glitter/ not all those who wander are lost./ The old that is strong does not wither/ deep roots are not reached by the frost./ From the ashes a fire shall be woken/ a light from the shadows shall spring./ Renewed shall be blade that was broken/ the crownless again shall be king."

#5.  Make a song
Human brains are very good at remembering melodies which is why so many oral histories were passed down in the form of lays.  When stories are in poem form, you can make sure you get key words right because you know they should rhyme. Forming the poem into a song, such as Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold helps with rhythm and meter as well.  

#6. Take it one stanza at a time
The Fall of Gil-galad has four stanzas, and I started out by working on the first one individually, then adding in the next ones gradually.  This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed, particularly with long poems.

Good luck with your memorization!  The first person to memorize all of Mythopoeia wins an imaginary batch of Lembas bread :)

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