Tutor Icon  Request A Tutor
Scripts

Memorising Poetry

No-one knows when poetry as an art-form began; one of the earliest poems we still have a copy of is The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, written around 6 and a half millennia ago in the Egyptian empire, but there were definitely many more before that. One of the reasons why the origins of poetry are so obscure is that poetry pre-dates history, and therefore it pre-dates literacy. Well, this is all very well and a lovely history lecture, but what does this have to do with your exams? I’ll move swiftly to the point. Poetry pre-dates any forms of literacy, this meant that it couldn’t be written down but had to be remembered. Did you ever wonder why prose is so different to poetry? History and song, before writing systems were invented, needed a different way to carry information from generation to generation – they had no books, and definitely no libraries. This was done by making the information easy to remember and easy to learn using a variety of tricks – some of these include alliteration, rhyme, and rhythm. This was verse, and was passed from bard to bard, the older teaching the younger.

The point I’m trying to make is that the reason poetry began, or part of the reason, was to make information memorable and to pass it from generation to generation. Obviously we now have books, libraries, iPads, and video cameras, and so we don’t need to remember anything anymore, unless, of course, you’re doing exams. Poetry began as something to be memorised, and this element still exists in it: use this to your advantage! I find that one of the easiest ways to remember lines of poetry for an exam, is to really enjoy and listen to the sound and feel of the poem rather than its central meaning. I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s take a couple of lines by early seventeenth-century poet John Donne:

 

Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears,

Hither I come to seek the spring

 

Now the first thing I would do would be to work out if I understood what was being said here – it’s much harder to learn something you don’t understand, plus you wouldn’t want to be writing on it in an exam. This done I would then listen to the lines like a piece of music, forgetting the literal sense of them for the moment. You’ll hear that the first line has a funny awkward rhythm: Duh de de duh, de de duh de de duh, and the second line carries that on, before becoming lighter and less awkward: Duh de de duh de duh de duh. Now I’m sure that there’s plenty there that one could write about in an essay, but I’m not talking about that, I’m just interested in memorising it as a tune.

You have the rhythm now, so you’ll be wanting the melody. English is a funny language, and we rarely listen to what are known as the unstressed syllables in a sentence. These are the ‘de’s above. The ‘duh’s are stresses, and it is these duhs that we tend to take more notice of. So take a look (or have a listen) to the vowels of the duhs. In the first line we have “ah eye ow ear” (“Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears”) followed by “i eye u ee i” (“Hither I come to seek the spring”). “Ah” and “ow” and “u” are lower vowels, they sound darker, “i” and “eye” are higher – think of the notes on a piano. The fact that the vowel line springs upwards on the words “seek the spring” is part of that link between meaning and sound that is at the heart of poetry. Once you find a link like that, you’ll never be tempted to misremember the line as, for example, “Hither I come to find the spring” – it’ll be stuck in your head.

Memorising Poetry

Try reading through a few lines of poetry slowly and listening out for the melody that’s there. If you can get it stuck in your head – like when an annoying song does, it’ll be much easier to remember. It always helped me to remember quotes for exams, and you’ll find yourself making all sorts of connections between the sound and the meaning, which will help you to remember it, and impress your teachers. Of course, you won’t always be learning poetry quotes, but the technique works pretty well for prose too, just pretend each sentence is a line of poetry. It works – try it!

This technique doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m not saying you won’t have to do the hard slog of slowly and painstakingly memorising lines, but it may make it just that little bit easier, and more enjoyable.

LETS STUDY FOR YOUR EXAM TOGETHER

 
Melodie Argi
Melodie Argi
08:14 18 Oct 19
Tavistock tutors is by far the best tutor agency is London. The tutor selection is of the highest quality. Handpicked from the British intellectual elite in all sorts of disciplines. The staff is wonderfully helpful as well as being extremely attentive to feedback.read more
Henry Smith
Henry Smith
22:27 17 Oct 19
I have been employed as a tutor with Tavistock Tutors for over 5 years. I tutor mathematics and also help people with job preparation for different career routes (cv, cover letter, interview preparation and online test prep). They are simply a wonderful team of individuals who work collectively and strive to deliver the best possible service to both clients and their tutors. They work doggedly to achieve results. They are particularly honest and their feedback to tutors on how to improve is tailored, concise and always highly constructive. Even after 5 yrs, they only put me forward as a tutor if they think I am the absolute best they can find otherwise they are honest with me and explain why I was not put forward. I think this transparency is a huge reason for their success and keeps the best tutors on their books for years. Their communication on what a client wants is also clinically precise and effective and the team go out of their way to provide potential interests/passions of the client to help the tutor prepare accordingly for the lessons and nurture that interaction. Simply the finest agency and I have tutored with some of the best. World-class tutors and utmost confidentiality with respect to their clientele. I cannot be happier to work for them, a dream job with a team whose capacity for kindness, empathy and boundless intellect never ceases to amaze me. Their work ethic inspires me to relentlessly push myself to be a better tutor with their encouragement and constructive feedback.read more
Albert Tam
Albert Tam
20:50 17 Oct 19
Best tutors in London! Great experience and amazing customer service. Highly recommend, my tutors were all fantastic and a huge help. Really recommend Tavistock Tutors as I never had to worry about not getting the highest quality tutors unlike other agencies and online tutors.read more
I ME
I ME
16:13 17 Oct 19
I’ve used Tavistock multiple times and they never disappoint!I used them for myself secondary school, whilst at university and even now whilst working. Their service is second to none as are their tutors.I highly recommend them to anyone looking to better themselves academically or personally.read more
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
STAVROS MOUSLOPOULOS
13:22 06 Oct 19
Why most reviewers have one contribution, namely to the Tavistock Tutors?High standards ? Mate get a real job rather than living off other's qualifications.Reality Check(See photos attached - that is the owner “looking for me” 1.5 years after leaving London and while my name and photo was on first page of Tavistock Tutor website...)read more
Jonathan Aaron
Jonathan Aaron
16:39 01 Aug 19
Amazing experience, the tutor was reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced and the company was both professional and reliable. Definitely will be using them again!read more
David T
David T
16:34 01 Aug 19
I used Tavistock for some Corporate Finance and Financial Modelling training at my firm. They were extremely helpful and the trainer, Simon, was of top quality, experience and charged a fair price. Thank you!read more
Olivia Pluss
Olivia Pluss
11:05 13 Jun 19
I had a fantastic experience with my tutor Elena and Tavistock Tutors. They were very well organized and made the entire experience so seamless and easy for me. I passed my assignment with great marks and the experience was much less stressful than if I had tried to complete the assignment without Elena's help.read more
J Mathews
J Mathews
11:27 22 May 19
My child used Glenda for HL biology. Glenda was outstanding. I would not hesitate to recommend her. Extremely intelligent, always prepared, knows how to teach/very helpful, and also just a nice person. Also, I would use Tavistock again for sure because we had such success with Glenda.read more
Alan Radford
Alan Radford
09:34 09 May 19
Tavistock Tutors were a delight to deal with, and highly professional at all times. They provided my daughter with an excellent tutor at very short notice - after my having approached them on a Thursday urgently requesting a tutor for that weekend. Tavistock Tutors immediately gave the matter their attention; they appreciated the urgency and responded quickly and efficiently, and helped to set my daughter up with exactly the right sort of tutor. Fantastic!read more
Sophie Taieb
Sophie Taieb
12:55 29 Mar 19
Very happy with Tavistock tutors services. They provide a wide range of tutors, from all backgrounds and for all types of needs. My uni son needed some help in research and methodology. We found a perfectly suited tutor in less than 3 days. He is very knowledgeable, punctual, open minded and brings the support needed to my son. I would definitely recommend Tavistock tutorsread more
Next Reviews
 

How to memorise quotes – (great for closed book exams!)

Memorising quotes can be a crucial element to your GCSE and A-level exams, so mastering the skill can be essential.Being able to use quotes in your written responses is a sure way to get marks fo...

How to choose quotes to learn for English GCSE

We know that learning quotes for a closed-book exam can be daunting, difficult and boring – especially when you’ve already been studying the text for an entire year. In our article ‘Do I need ...

Do I need to memorise quotes for English GCSE?

With the new GCSE specifications released in 2015, most English Literature GCSE exams have now become closed-book exams.

But what does this mean?

This means that in your exam, you won...

Call Now Button