The Practice of Memorizing Poetry

I love thinking about the ways that writing and spirituality intersect in my life. Recently I’ve been reading about a unique practice that ties the two together — the memorization of poetry. I suppose that this practice isn’t exactly unique, but it seems so given the way memorization has fallen out of favor today.

First, let’s look at the writing angle. In a recent post, writing coach Ann Kroeker says that “poetry, if we let it, can seep into us and change us with its funny, surprising, and serious ways of processing life and ideas.” It might help us with our writing by introducing us to surprising imagery and new ways of thinking. Kroeker writes:

In poetry, you’ll find freedom from some of the mechanics expected in prose, such as proper comma placement. In poetry, you’ll find fresh phrasings that throw your brain off its expected track and into novel ways of thinking and imagining. This can happen when you read a poem, but it works best when you take it to heart.


Is this something you’ve ever tried? I believe poetry memorization can serve as a playful, creative activity that will add energy, ideas, and allusions to the rest of our writing.

That might be something I’m willing to try. Poetry may have additional benefits, too. According to some, memorizing and reciting poetry is akin to a spiritual practice. In an article in iNews, Allie Esiri, a noted poetry promoter, writes:

We talk a lot about ‘mindfulness’ these days. Well, reading a poem, and giving yourself over to the movements of rhythm and meter, is an excellent way to bring about peace of mind. But better still is reciting a poem. Forming each phrase for yourself, and focusing on the lines that follow, there is little room for unbidden thoughts, and you truly lose yourself in the words.


A study by University of Cambridge into memorising poetry found that most participants described the learning of a poem by heart as an ‘enriching, life-enhancing experience’. In times of need, the poems we learn are always ours to fall back on.

Poems help us feel less alone — teenagers discover in great verse that they are not the only ones who have felt hardship or pain. And there is evidence, too, that learning poetry keeps our minds sharp. Alzheimer’s patients often respond well to poems and pieces of music they learnt when young. They’re with us for life.


Both these articles have helpful suggestions for choosing a poem and tips for memorization. So how about it? Do you think, for the sake of your spiritual and creative life, that you’re up for the challenge of memorizing a poem?