3 Strange & Wondrous Ways You Can Learn Poetry By Heart & Memorize Any Passage of Literature
  • Poems, unique among all literature, were for many centuries specifically meant to be learned by heart. They were meant to be memorized and then recited aloud. This is called the oral tradition of poetry — which in essence means holding literature in the mind and heart, and then reciting it. Thus we find in the oral tradition of poetry both an individual and also a shared aspect.

    But why, in this high-speed day and age, why should anyone bother memorizing poetry or other passages of literature? Of what value is it?

    I have an emphatic answer to that question:

    When you memorize and learn by heart, you capture the essence of the poem or passage, and in so doing (even if you forget parts of it later) you hold it always within you. This is no small thing. 

    Why do I say it’s no small thing? 

    Because when you know a poem by heart, you own that poem. Its language becomes a part of you. 

    It is not an exaggeration to say that the words you’ve learned by heart — like all things you learn and come to grasp — join the ceaseless flow of your thoughts. They help shape your very person. This is so because humans survive and flourish by means of thought, and thought consists of words. 

    Without language, there is not thought.

    When you know a poem or passage by heart, you by necessity become enmeshed with that poem or passage. 

    You’re forever afterward able to contemplate the poems more deeply, grasp these poems more fully, possess the words more truly. The language lives within you, and it runs through the rivers of your mind.

    When, therefore, you truly retain something, you possess the thing in a way unlike any other. You possess it inside you — but more than that: you possess it in a manner which is totally original and uniquely you because it’s become integrated with your own way of thinking, and no two people think exactly alike or have the same context of knowledge. The words you’ve learned by heart are integrated with your own body-of-context — the way you and you alone look upon the world and the universe — and that outlook is souly yours. The world is for each peculiar and private to each individual soul, wrote T.S. Eliot, and I think this is a true and profound observation. 

    Memorizing and learning by heart enriches and expands the scope of your thinking — i.e. your consciousness — and in this sense, it expands the scope of your learning. 

    It also, as a corollary, strengthens the methods by which you learn. 

    The human consciousness, arguably the most complex thing in the known universe, operates by means of reason and apprehension— which is to say, words and language.

    A person who can recite words which, through a self-guided act of will emerging from within her, this person possesses those words in a deeper way. This person also has greater command of her thoughts, and in this sense — a real sense — she is more fully self-directed.

    The good of learning poetry by heart is in this way immeasurable. I believe by the end of this section, I will have persuaded you of this truth. 

    In learning anything by heart, I urge you to systematically strive to retain instead of repeat. This may sound like semantic hairsplitting, but I assure you it’s not.

    Memory is an act of processing and integrating — specifically, processing and integrating new data into your existing body of knowledge. This existing body of knowledge is your context. Retaining means that you’re actively integrating. Repeating means you’re going through the motions mechanically.

    Among all memory skills, verbatim memorization is its own unique beast. None of the three primary memory methods — the link system, the peg system, the Method-of-Loci—none are quite suited for learning-by-heart. Why? The answer to that is not straightforward.

    I believe it’s because the smaller, less significant words — articles and connectives like “the,” “a,” “and,” “but,” “so”… — they are difficult to link with specific images. 

    What follows, however, is without any doubt the fastest and most effective method for learning literature by heart. No one seems to know for certain who invented it, or even precisely when it came about, but it’s generally agreed that it was developed by actresses and actors who sought a faster way to learn their lines for the stage.

    Try it now. 

    Read aloud this short poem. It was written by Thom Gunn, an English poet who wrote very cerebral and sophisticated poems yet charming children’s poems, as well, like this one:

    Shark

    Shark, with your mouth tucked under
    That severs like a knife,
    You leave no time for wonder
    In your swift thrusting life.

    You taste blood. It’s your brother’s,
    And at your side he flits
    But blood, like any other’s.
    You bite him into bits.

    Read it one more time. Do not necessarily try to memorize it, but do read it closely, carefully, slowly. And then again, one final read through. Even better if you copy it out with pen or pencil onto paper.

    Now scroll down or cover the words of the poem so that you cannot see the poem, and then look at the following letters. These are the first letters of each word in the poem. With the prompting of these first letters, see how much of the poem you remember:

    S, w, y, m, t,u t, s, l, a, k, y, l, n, t, f, w, i, y, s, t, l, y, t, b, i, y, b, a, a, y, s, h, f, b, b, l, a, o, y, b, h, i, b.

    If you missed words, no problem! Simply go back and reread it one or two more times. Now try it again. And again. And again. I assure you, you will have this poem down in a matter of minutes. 

    This, I repeat, is the fastest method for learning any literature by heart. And it does work for lengthy passages too, though of course that takes longer. I’ve even heard of people learning the entire New Testament by this exact method!

    Practice it with anything you like — poems, plays, passages, paragraphs, sentences — it doesn’t matter. The more you practice it, the better you’ll become. I promise you that. As a matter of fact, when, relatively recently, I was first shown this method and told what a revolutionary method it is and then tried it for myself, I was underwhelmed. At first. But after practicing it — diligently but only a few times — I got it. I do think it’s revolutionary.

    The second method for verbatim memorization is also effective, if not as fast. It is an excellent method — underused, in my opinion — and I believe there’s yet some undiscovered way to more fully harness its power:

    Make up a melody for the words of the poem or passage. 

    It can be any tune you dream up. It can be a horrible tune or it can be euphonious — it doesn’t matter. 

    I myself use this method effectively. It takes a little doing and patience, but it definitely does work (even if you’re not musically inclined), and it also gets easier with practice. The proof that it works is found in the fact that we all— every one of us, I’m sure — remember songs and things by means of music that we were taught from way back, things we remember word-for-word, dating from years and years before, and we remember them, moreover, with vodka-clarity. 

    Why is this so? 

    For one reason alone: the melody. 

    The human mind has a special way of processing and therefore remembering melodies. With melody, the human mind will hold vice-like to the precise words and phrases which are set to music.

    I even recall a silly song from the television show Cheers — a song one of the characters came up with to help him remember a geography test he had to take: “Albania! Albania! It borders on the Adriatic….” I saw that episode one time, at least two decades ago, and, for better or worse, it is burned indelibly into my brain.

    Find the music, therefore, that exists in your heart, and in this way learn by heart the literature which you set to your own tune, your own beat, your own secret score.

    For method number three, let me reiterate and emphasize that some repetition is necessary and indispensable for learning any literature by heart. But never forget to strive for recall rather than repeat — by which I mean, strive to recall the information by engaging with the words in such a way that you vividly picture them and integrate them in your existing body of knowledge, rather than rote repetition. If my particular pictures and images don’t work for you, simply come up with your own.

    Reading a poem or passage over and over again, without integration or processing, without engaging the brain, is the long and drawn-out road to memorization. 

    Please go through the following poem with me. It’s an obscure poem by an American poetess, who’s not well-known but whom I admire very much. Her name is May Swenson. 

    I chose this poem for two reasons: it’s strange and difficult to memorize; and I myself have only read it two times, and both of those times were long ago, and I don’t know it even close to by heart; so I can learn it with you.

    beseech you, please, to take the time to go through this with me. What follows may seem elaborate and even confusing, but I have a genuine surprise waiting for you at the end of it: something wonderful, and I’m not click-bating you or stringing you along. (We just met!) But you must first go through this with me in order to get that wonderful thing. I promise you will find rewarding what I have waiting for you. 

    The first thing to do is read the poem once through and then write it down — preferably on paper, with pen or pencil — and pay attention to each word as you’re reading and then writing the poem. You’re not trying to memorize here, but only seeking to develop a cursory familiarity with each word. If you don’t want to take the time to write it, make sure, then, to read through it carefully and thoughtfully.

    Here’s the title:

    Four-Word Lines

    To remember that title, we might think of the double meaning, which the poetess surely intended: “forward lines” — or “four-word lines.”

    Here’s the first half of the poem:

    Your eyes are just 
    like bees, and I
    feel like a flower.
    Their brown power makes
    a breeze go over 
    my skin. When your
    lashes ride down and
    rise like brown bees’
    legs, your pronged gaze
    makes my eyes gauze.

    I’d like for you to try this with me:

    Picture yourself on a beautiful spring morning waking up alone in your bedroom, and the moment you open your eyes, you find yourself looking at a photo of one whom you love very much. This photo sits upon your dresser which, in turn, sits directly across from where you lay, newly awoken, in your bed.

    Now imagine that the loved one in the photo, who’s staring directly back at you, has eyes which in the half-light of morning are just like bees, and you, the moment you come awake, feel like a flower.

    Say those words over two more times and really strive to picture the scene I’ve just described and which you’ve recreated in your brain:

    Your eyes are just
    like bees, and I
    feel like a flower.

    Process that as much and as deeply as you can. Process it along with the images, and try to get just that one sentence down perfectly. Note that it is two similes connected by the word “and.” 

    Hear yourself speak those words to your loved one in the photo: “Your eyes are just like bees, and I feel like a flower.”

    Now imagine yourself writing those same words in giant letters on your white bed sheets in chocolate-brown magic marker. See yourself forming each letter that makes up each word, and see yourself writing it in four-line stanzas, just as May Swenson wrote it, and then see yourself reading the words you’ve written. 

    For myself, in trying to recall those first lines, I’ve twice forgotten the word “just.” 

    Now move on. Imagine that you feel a breeze coming from somewhere. You rise from your bed and go to your window, which is open. Work to actually feel the cool spring wind go over your skin. You look outside and see two large brown trucks right below your window, engines idling with such power that they make a breeze go over my skin.

    Close your eyes for a moment and actually picture this. Actually feel it.

    Now repeat it from the beginning, and make the mental effort to see the images and feel the breeze and recall the words you wrote in chocolate-brown upon your bed sheets.

    Your eyes are just
    like bees, and I
    feel like a flower.
    Their brown power makes
    a breeze go over
    my skin.

    You see what we’re striving for: we’re striving to create images that make the process of recall much different from rote learning and mindless repetition, over and over, without any real thought. 

    One particularly challenging thing about verbatim learning is that any given writer will use any given word that’s different from the word or words you or I might have chosen in the same or similar context. For instance, going through this poem now, I’ve so far struggled to remember “just” and “makes” (in “makes a breeze go over”), as well as “go over” because these are not the words I myself would have used. 

    For each specific word that you see giving you trouble, make special note of it, and then make the effort to create an image that helps you process it more deeply — after which, continue on. You don’t have to have it down perfectly before you continue.

    Keep in mind always the thing I already said: the most difficult part about recalling literature verbatim is the small and seemingly inconsequential words — the articles, prepositions, connectives, so on.

    Next see yourself writing the words on your bedroom wall, just as you did on the white bedsheet, next to the open window and still using the chocolate-brown magic marker. 

    Write each word slowly and gigantically, and visualize the words you’ve written upon the wall.

    Now imagine turning from the window — below which the brown trucks are idling with such power that it makes a breeze go over my skin — and see yourself next striding into your bathroom. 

    In the mirror above the sink, there is a clear reflection of the eyes of the loved one in the photo. But this time those brown bee-eyes blink: they blink slowly — so slowly that the lashes ride down and rise like brown bees’ legs.

    Think of the lashes like actual bees’ legs, rising. 

    Visualize this image clearly, disproportionately, inordinately.

    Consider as well May Swenson’s clear and obvious love for this person’s eyes — eyes with so much depth and beauty that for May Swenson, these eyes pulse with life, like concentric circles of energy radiating outward.

    Perhaps you quite naturally think of bees’ legs here, since the loved one’s eyes already are just like bees, and so it is no stretch now for you to actually picture the lovely long lashes ride down and rise like brown bees’ legs, and perhaps also the slightly peculiar-looking apostrophe at the end of the word bees’ helps you to see these words more clearly, as well.

    Next you see in that pronged (and what an unusual and delightful word-choice “pronged” is, meaning: to pierce or stab, as with a pitchfork) —  you see that pronged gaze (not “eyes,” not “stare,” both of which I keep wanting to say, but gaze), and to you your loved one’s pronged gaze is so touching and so beautiful that the beauty of the gaze makes you whisper words to yourself:

    “The beauty of your pronged gaze,” you softly say, “makes my eyes gauze.”

    Say this again and picture it again — picture, perhaps, your eyes staring into the bathroom mirror, but now your eyes are suddenly wounded and covered in two gauze bandages:

    … your pronged gaze
    makes my eyes gauze.

    Now with or without looking back at the text — it doesn’t matter — go through it all again, step-by-step as you wake up, from the beginning:

    Your eyes are just
    like bees, and I
    feel like a flower.
    Their brown power makes
    a breeze go over 
    my skin. When your
    lashes ride down and
    rise like a brown bees’
    legs, your pronged gaze
    makes my eyes gauze.

    Notice here, incidentally, that May Swenson does not say my eyes are like gauze. She now makes this far more powerful with a metaphor:

    My eyes are gauze.

    It’s at this point in the poem that the whole piece begins moving from simile to full-blown metaphor — please remember what I’m saying here because, for reasons I will discuss in a moment, it’s highly significant. 

    The pronged gaze of those eyes, which, in the first lines, are just like bees, are what makes my eyes gauze.

    This is the halfway point of the poem. 

    I ask you to imagine yourself writing it all out again, word-for-word, line-four-line, from the beginning — except this time, see yourself writing it all in red lipstick upon your bathroom mirror. See the words you write. And please refer back to the poem as much as you need.

    I am well aware that going through it all in this way — in such an elaborate and perhaps even convoluted-seeming fashion — feels the opposite of streamlined. I’m well aware also that it seems as though you’re remembering less compared with what you would have learned through dozens and dozens of repetitions. I assure you, it feels the same way to me too. 

    But please stick with me. Please. It takes a lot of words to describe this process, and yet once you’re through it, you can do it on your own, in the privacy of your mind, more efficiently and more quickly, but more importantly than that: there’s a very specific reason I’m doing it this way, and I ask you to continue on with me. 

    Please keep reading.

    Recall and read once more the exact lines you’ve just written in red lipstick across your mirror, and for which we’ve created these living, breathing memories. Say the words aloud again now. It doesn’t matter at all how many times you have to go back and look at the words in order to recall them. The most important thing is to picture the images you’ve built, including the big letters you’ve written to spell out the words. Think of the images until you believe you have those ten lines pretty well in your heart, if not fully.

    Here now is the second half and the end of the poem. Read it once closely and if you haven’t already, write it down on paper and pay attention to the words as you’re writing:

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and
    no swarm of other
    eyes to know that
    I’m a flower breathing
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.
    I’d let you wade
    in me and seize 
    with your eager brown
    bees’ power a sweet
    glistening at my core.

    The end.

    That is the whole poem.

    Take notice now of the delicate and heartfelt — yet totally tasteful and even touching — sexual connotations this poem develops in its second half: like the accumulation of a dramatic power begun in the first ten lines.

    I urge you to use this sexual imagery to your memory’s advantage.

    Memory loves outstanding images —and I mean outstanding images of any and all kinds — and few things are more outstanding than the sexually arousing.

    Memory masters the wide world over will testify to using R-and-X-rated images all the time: because these images stay lodged inside the brain.

    Notice also in this poem’s second half that there are only two total sentences, and this, in a certain way, can indeed make it more difficult to chunk, since the chunks have no real natural stopping point. The strangeness of the lines composed in four-line stanzas also presents particular memory challenges — at least for me. But this is a small matter.

    We move now from the bathroom to the kitchen, which is unlit and hushed in shades of silence. The kitchen is like some shade.

    Let us next envision taking a big stick of sidewalk chalk— kohl-black in color— and scrawling gigantic words with this big piece of kohl chalk all across the kitchen wall. The words we carve are that entire sentence, broken into four-line stanzas:

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and
    no swarm of other
    eyes to know that
    I’m a flower breathing
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.

    Truly see yourself scrawling out each letter of each word, in gigantic letters, and then stepping back and reading it. See yourself carving the words upon your kitchen wall. Say the words aloud as you’re completing them:

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and
    no swarm of other
    eyes to know that
    I’m a flower breathing
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.

    You see the words hugely, written by your own hand, upon the wall. Say again those two lines aloud: 

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and…

    Find and feel the rhythm of her lines, and sing or hum them.

    Picture yourself now relaxed in that shade, as you are right now in the shade of the kitchen, and feel how much you wish it. 

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and 
    no swarm 
    [think of other, littler bees, perhaps, swarming] of other 
    eyes to know that 
    [eyes to know!]
    I’m a flower breathing 
    bare, laid open to 
    YOUR bees’ warm stare.

    I emphasized the word YOUR this time to aid us in recalling what may be the most difficult passage for me to hold. Nothing, however, about this is so difficult — and do you know why I say so?

    Because the process is enjoyable. Because memory is fun. Because we’re using our minds, growing our brains, thinking, recreating, perpending.

    It is, I repeat, perfectly fine to keep going back to look at the words and remind yourself of them. Simply continue seeing the images each time you do:

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and
    no swarm of other
    eyes to know that
    I’m a flower breathing
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.

    I’d like for you to take special note of the rhyme, as well as that wildly arresting image: 

    I’m a flower breathing 
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.

    Another memory link here, in addition to the gentle rhyme — bare/stare — is the equally gentle alliteration: “wish we were” … “some shade and swarm”  … “breathing bare, laid open to your bees’ …” 

    It also calls to my mind the Pink Floyd song “Wish you were here.” 

    Most urgently, however — and I referenced this above — I want you to notice in particular May Swenson’s relentless and relentlessly brilliant idea development here — a strange but I think stupendously poetic idea — which she somewhere somehow got hold of and then opened up like a flower and turned into something immense and magical: 

    That idea begins in the very beginning — lines 1 and 2 — when she compares her lover’s eyes to bees. Not bees’ eyes, mind you, but actual bees:

    Your eyes are just
    like bees … 

    This is how her strange idea is introduced. 

    Now observe how her idea has grown — specifically, I mean, in how far she’s gone into her idea, a mere fifteen short lines later (alongside her contributing references to vision and bees: “other eyes” and “swarms” and “stares” — a full-blown and complex conceit by now, developed in so little time): 

    your bees’ warm stare.

    I single out this line and urgently ask you to notice it because when I myself was going through the poem, learning it by heart, just like you, that line suddenly leapt out at me — in a way I can only think of as a kind of hyper-metaphor (a term I’ve never heard of or used before), insofar as May Swenson now no longer even bothers calling her lover’s eyes “eyes”— and why? Why, now, doesn’t she? 

    Because they aren’t eyes anymore. They’re bees. 

    They’ve transformed completely.

    Take a moment and reread that line and consider it in the light of what I’m saying. Does it strike you as it struck me? It is a daring and wild idea.

    Recall also, in this same context, the words “I am like a flower” from the second line of the poem. Now, some fifteen lines later it’s brought back — except this time, this deep into the conceit, she, too, has transformed: she is no longer like a flower; she is a flower, and furthermore she wants her loved one to know that she’s a flower — and more: she wants her loved one to know that she’s a flower breathing bare, laid open to your bees’ [i.e. eyes] warm stare.

    I think now that this is nothing less than a total metomorphisis taking place before us — perhaps a transfiguration or even transmogrification: two beings metamorphosing with the pace of the poem into full-blown flower and bee — for at no point in the entirety of this poem is her lover’s flesh or physical being ever referenced as anything more — or less — than eyes and eyelashes.

    It’s incredible. 

    It’s beautiful.

    Please let me stress again to you that I’m fully aware how convoluted this feels and how unhelpful to memory it surely seems. Stick with me, please. 

    I urge you also once again to get explicit in the privacy of your own mind with your images, and truly seek to feel these things. I promise you this process — learning to read in this way — will amplify your memory for every single thing you subsequently read. And I promise you also that it will become easier to do the more that you practice it, because you will have developed new methods whereby you process words more profoundly.

    One more time from the beginning of the second half, imagine scrawling in kohl-black chalk these words onto your kitchen wall, and say them aloud as you do so:

    I wish we were 
    in some shade and
    no swarm of other
    eyes to know that
    I’m a flower breathing
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.

    Picture yourself moving from the shade of the kitchen and now stepping outside, through a sliding glass door, and wading into green grass alive with bees.

    I’d let you wade
    in me and seize 
    with your eager brown
    bees’ power a sweet
    glistening at my core.

    Note: sieze. 

    Note: eager brown bees’

    Go through each word of these final five lines, and for each word make an image so bright and brilliant and evocative that in your mind’s eye, the scene you’ve created actually looks and feels alive and burning. 

    Write these last five lines in smoking hot-pink paint upon the glass of the sliding door. See yourself writing each letter of each word, and speak the words aloud as you write them. 

    Stand back and look at the words written in four-line stanzas, in smoking hot-pink paint upon the glass.

    Now go back to the very beginning, when you first woke in your bed and opened your eyes. 

    Proceed through the poem in full, word-for-word, step-for-step: from writing on your bedsheets in chocolate-brown magic marker; then to the window and writing on the wall; then to the bathroom and writing on the bathroom mirror with lipstick, and then to the shade of the kitchen and using kohl-black chalk to scrawl upon the kitchen wall and at last outside, wading in grass, and finally painting pinkly upon the sliding-glass door. 

    Read the whole poem again here, aloud, and try to anticipate what word and line comes next. But please don’t worry at all about having it by heart.

    Four-Word Lines

    Your eyes are just 
    like bees, and I
    feel like a flower.
    Their brown power makes
    a breeze go over 
    my skin. When your
    lashes ride down and
    rise like brown bees’
    legs, your pronged gaze
    makes my eyes gauze.
    I wish we were 
    in some shade and
    no swarm of other
    eyes to know that
    I’m a flower breathing
    bare, laid open to
    your bees’ warm stare.
    I’d let you wade
    in me and seize 
    with your eager brown
    bees’ power a sweet
    glistening at my core.

    — May Swenson (1913–1989)

    Test yourself again to see how much you can recite. It doesn’t matter in the least how many times you need to look back at the words to remind yourself. And, for the record, there’s no doubt that this is a difficult poem to memorize. But don’t let that deter or discourage you. 

    Remember: memory is fun.

    Remember also: I still have a surprise in store.

    But before I reveal that surprise, please look at the following, which are the first letters of each word in the poem. 

    Now, using the prompting of these first letters alone, see how many words you can recall:

    F,W,L

    y, e, a, j,
    l, b, a, i,
    f, l, a, f.
    t, b, p, m,
    a, b, g, o,
    m, s. w, y,
    l, r, d, a,
    r, l, b, b,
    l, y, p, g,
    m, m, e, g.
    I, w, w, w,
    i, s, s, a,
    n, s, o, o,
    e, t, k, t,
    i, a, f, b,
    b, l, o, t,
    y, b, w, s.
    i, l, y, w,
    i, m, a, s,
    w, y, e, b,
    b, p, a, s,
    g, a, m, c.

    If you don’t have it all — which most people won’t yet — don’t fret. Simply keep going back and checking the words against the corresponding letter, and you will soon have this poem. 

    You will.

    And now at last the surprise I promised: 

    I promised that if you go through this whole thing with me — and you did, and I thank you! — my surprise would not disappoint you, and I’m prepared now to uphold my end of the bargain:

    Apart from how thoroughly you do or don’t have this poem in your heart, please notice now how much farther you’ve gone into it, and how much more the poem has yielded up to you. 

    Observe, by introspecting, how in that relatively brief time, this poem, in a small but significant way, has become a part of you now — your psyche, your mind. It is there to stay.

    Observe how close and even connected you feel to May Swenson’s words and her word choices. 

    Observe how, via memory, her words have moved into your mentality.

    Observe within yourself how much deeper you can now appreciate your reading of this poem — whether you like it or not isn’t even the point. Simply observe how much more profoundly you’ve gone into the depths of the poem, and how by virtue of having gone this far in, creating your own living burning images for the words in tandem with hers, you now possess and grasp this poem in a manner which thirty minutes ago you did not approach — not even close.

    You’ve immersed yourself in those words — which are ideas and mental images — and in so doing you’ve made these abstract ideas into concrete things. They’ve taken form before you, within you. You understand and apprehend something new — something new and therefore in a manner you’ve never quite had before. In this way, you’ve grown your mind. And so have I. I’ve grown my mind too.

    That is the power of learning literature by heart.

    That alone is the total testament to the magic of memorizing literature verbatim, even if you don’t forever recall every single word of every single line from here on out. Because the process made thin grooves — grooves which you’ve carved into the clay channels of your brain, opening it, allowing it to expand, breathe — like grooves in a record bearing beautiful melodies, and they’ll always remain.

    This is why actresses and actors feel so enriched after learning Shakespeare by heart.

    Because memory, never forget, is both skill and art.


About The Author

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning as the constant in my life.

6 Responses and Counting...

  • Ms. 12.24.2019

    So much fun! I love this exercise! I use to do something similar when memorizing scientific plant names, but this goes beyond that! And I can feel new neural pathways alive within me! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you, you absolutely wonderful human!

    For taking the time to go through all that and then comment, I have another surprise for you. I talked a certain someone I know into a certain something for this certain post:

    Click-click!

  • “Sing it, Sam!” – Coach

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F_tT-q8EF0

  • You found it!

  • Thank you, Sir Ray. I will certainly be sharing this with thousands over the next few years of my career, as it is the most compassionate and compelling logical impart I’ve ever come across “to memorize some good shit for your own fucking goodness sake.”

    Aside from quips, jokes, quotes, lots o’ songs/lyrics… it was passion that led me to memorize this six decades ago:

    Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.

    Norman Maclean
    (1902-1990)
    American writer
    A River Runs Through it and Other Stories

    … not long comparatively, I know, but a hurdle and then subsequent hook for me as a teenager in the late ’70s.

    Thank you for putting into written words what students need to hear… especially, the WHY part, which many kids need before they can grok.

  • Thank you, my dear friend, amazing human.

    Thank you.

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