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Memory Improvement Tips Using Poetry

Want to know how to get a better memory? Put that poetry in motion.

Medically reviewed in January 2020

Updated on March 1, 2021

How do I remember thee? Let me count the ways... 

Exercising your brain helps keep it young, and a great way to work your mental muscle is to read, write and memorize poetry. Studies show that committing your favorite verses to memory can not only preserve mental function but may also improve your memory

Start with some poetry that interests and engages you. You might find yourself drawn to the verses of Robert Frost or Maya Angelou, or you may prefer the fledgling efforts of your children or grandchildren. 

Next, use this 10-step plan for committing those verses to memory:

  1. On your first read, read it slowly, absorbing every word. It's important for you to understand the poem. Meaning helps to make memories. 
  2. Next, quickly read the poem several times, feeling the rhythm and cadence of the language. This additional experience of the poem will provide more layers of meaning and memory. 
  3. Copy the poem down—many people find the act of writing helps them commit things to memory. 
  4. Now, read the poem out loud. Hearing how the poem sounds will help you remember it better. 
  5. Auditory learners may benefit from recording a reading of the poem and playing it back frequently. 
  6. Break the poem into different parts, by line or by section. 
  7. Memorize one line or section at a time. Stick with that portion until you feel confident reciting it from memory. Practice reciting two memorized sections together before moving on to a new section. You can memorize one section each day if you want to pace yourself. 
  8. Get some sleep. After you've memorized your poem, getting a good night's sleep may actually help enhance your memory of it. 
  9. Keep a copy of the poem with you at all times. Read it frequently throughout the day. 
  10. To test your memory of the poem, recite it to someone who has a copy or write it down from memory and compare your work to the original. 

Eventually, give your poetry exercises a twist by fashioning your own odes. To get the ideas flowing, try opening a book, pointing to a word at random and using it in a verse. Or take a favorite poem and alter it to incorporate your own topic and meaning. 

Keeping your mind sharp can take a bit of creative effort. But who knows? You may pen the next classic rhyme. Either way, your brain will be better for it.

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