Memorising poetry is an art of the heart

By Christina Patterson

Memorising_PoetryMy heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains my sense.” This is what I thought when I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night and ended up listening to a podcast about the European Union referendum.

On another occasion, after climbing into a bath without testing the water: “Too hot, too hot!” I screeched, and then, a bit less relevantly, “To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods. I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances; But not for joy; not joy.”

I have been quoting Leontes in the bath ever since I studied The Winter’s Tale for A-level. I have been quoting Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale ever since I studied it for O-level. I think of it when I’m fed up. I think of it when I’m tired. I think of it when I’m broken-hearted. And I think of it when I order a nice glass of Rioja, or what Keats would have called “a beaker full of the warm South”.

There are some people I know,” said Salman Rushdie at the Hay literary festival last week, “who are just able to carry around absurd amounts of poetry in their heads.” Memorising poetry, he added, had become a “lost art”.

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