Memorising poetry – a piece of Gateau?

You’ve heard the one about the woman who ate a dictionary for breakfast? No, it’s not rude, it’s all about the love of words and the sounds of words. Honestly. I taught myself rudimentary Italian, with a bit of help from Google translate, so when I arrived in Venice, I could confidently order a water taxi to our hotel and understand where we were being directed to. I may have a slight linguistic advantage, having studied French and German up to ‘A’ level, but still. I got my head in the Italian zone and off I went.

Burano: I memorised snippets of Italian, now I’m committing verse to memory

Absorbing new languages, or even memorising them well enough in your own language to be able to regurgitate them later, is not a skill that everyone finds easy, as this article from the Daily Mail expounds, with unflattering references to ‘snowflakes.’

Christina Patterson’s piece about memorising poetry is more optimistic; any pain involved in committing a verse to heart is worth the effort in spontaneous and sometimes unexpected recall! In it, Salman Rushdie bemoans the fact that reciting poetry is becoming a lost art.

When I wrote Songs of My Soul, I envisaged a close one to one relationship with my readers, it was a personal exchange; a gift from me to them. In the comfort zone of being a writer of poetry, the act of performing my poems seemed exposing. I know that’s part of the thrill, but if you’re not prepared to really perform, or act out your poem, it can all fall horribly flat. Almost imperceptibly, my poems are becoming more edited, starker pieces. I’m not sure if this is a response to the other poetry and literature I’m reading, or simply a stylistic development. Either way, I’m starting to commit them to memory; a skill I first learned at school, aged 15. I’m also learning them, to provide a deeper level of connection to the people who are kind enough to listen to my words. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Suzy Rowland-Rigg