Poetry and Loci

[This thread was copied into this post from the old forum.]

EscapingEden 27 September, 2012 - 23:26

Hey everyone thanks for responses. I am currently trying to memorize a poem i like for a poetry reading at my school. I am incredibly confused lets be honest. I don’t get whether i go word by word implanting them in my loci or pick key words and use another techniques for the filler such as the, and, but. Please help and it is greatly appreciated!

Josh 27 September, 2012 - 23:43

What poem is it?
If it’s an older poem with a fixed meter that isn’t especially long, much of it can be done through exaggeration of the meter and repetition, with mnemonic images to supplement things. The method of loci can work too.

EscapingEden 27 September, 2012 - 23:57

The poem is “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepard” by Sir Walter Raleigh. About 147 words i think, and it has a pretty fixed meter. How do you suggest i exaggerate the meter and repetition, and use the images to supplement how? Also once i do all this how do i retain the knowledge of what i did in my head?

Josh 3 October, 2012 - 12:00

Here are some ideas:

I would exaggerate the rhythm:

If all the world and love were young ,
And truth in eve ry shep herd’s tongue ,
These pret ty pleas ures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love .

Rhymed iambic tetrameter (four da-DUMs) has a strong rhythmic effect that I think is good for memorization. When lines have more syllables than that, it delays the rhymes and takes focus off of them.

I’d pay attention to the first two words and last word of ever line:

If all…young
And truth… tongue
These pret-ty… move
To live… love

I’d rhyme move and love like mow-ve and low-ve, because rhymes are memorable.

I think that the first words on a line (or first sound of a word) are important because they help get past the “tip of the tongue” block.

Repeat it like that about three times. Then read a line and then look away and say it… fill the parts you don’t know with meaningless syllables. “If all the da-ta-da were young.”

Then look back at the poem to see which words you don’t know, and then try again without looking. You don’t need to master a line before you move on, since you can review the poem many times as you work your way through it.

Sometimes I’m walking along with a part of an unmemorized poem in my head. I do that with the missing parts, and sometimes I can reconstruct those parts after trying for a while. It helps to know the first couple of words and the rhyming word.

You can use mnemonic images for words that you forget, something like this:

Time drives the flocks from field to fold = an hourglass [time] drives [like a car] sheep from field to a giant folded napkin
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold, = a giant hen [w-hen] is wading in a raging river. The rocks are growing in the cold water.

In the second line, I was forgetting whether it was " in every shepherd’s tongue" or " on every shepherd’s tongue". You could imagine something being inside a tongue.

Take note of the alliteration on each line:
Time drives the flocks from field to fold = words that start with “f”
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold = words that start with “r”

Natural memory can hold that information – it’s just another thing to help get past the top of the tongue effect. For example, you will know that it’s “rocks” and not “stones” as long as you can remember “rivers rage”.

Another thing you can do is to copy the poem by hand. Active recall is best, so maybe read the line, look away, repeat it from memory, and the write it down. Do the next line, and see if you can recall the first line. You can also draw pictures next to the text, since your visual memory will store those images.

I also try to take a “mental photograph” – not as in photographic memory, but if I try to visually recall the layout of the page(s), it seems to help me.

Two ways to keep track of where you are in a poem are the method of loci and story method. You could extract keywords and then place them in a memory palace and/or link them together in a story.

After memorizing the poem, I would try to smooth it out by reciting it naturally without the exaggerated meter or weird images.

I like to read poetry before bed, because sleeping after learning helps with memory. :slight_smile:

EscapingEden 4 October, 2012 - 15:03

Thanks! I used some of your techniques and it took me about 30 minutes and about 15 more minutes of reciting and i only missed 1 word! 49/50 on my grade! It was really fun and i think im going to start memorizing other poems for fun now!

suncover 4 October, 2012 - 18:17

49/50 - nice work! Good effort pays off, hey? :slight_smile:

Josh 4 October, 2012 - 23:36

EscapingEden wrote:

…49/50 on my grade!

Great work… :slight_smile:

EscapingEden wrote:

It was really fun and i think im going to start memorizing other poems for fun now!

A good resource is Project Gutenberg. Anything published before the 1920s is in public domain, so many of the best poets’ works are free.