Got a few minutes to spare? Learning a poem by heart could be good for your memory!

Ginger Lambert

Do you ever find yourself waiting for a doctor’s appointment and feeling bored with reading the same year-or-two-old magazines? Why not try memorizing a poem? With as little as five minutes a day you can commit a short poem to memory in as little as a week.

What are the benefits? The natural degradation in cognition can be reversed, according to some researchers. The brain responds to new stimuli, and it’s possible that neurogenesis or the creation of new neurons is sparked when we learn something new. As we age it is important to change routines and challenge ourselves every day to encourage good brain health.

What better way than committing a poem to memory? When you learn a poem by heart, you take it into your subconscious, and the nuances of the poem become more obvious. Spending time practicing different intonations for a phrase might help you uncover a new twist on the poem’s meaning. Going into the imagery of the poem might spark your creativity or imagination for some other activity, like painting or writing.

Learning a language or a musical instrument or taking a different route home are all ways to stimulate the brain. In a society that is moving so fast, slowing down to memorize a poem can be calming and a form of

meditation. Learning by heart connects us to other cultures, develops empathy and improves focus and concentration. Reciting in front of others can also inspire self-confidence and poise.

In the words of Paul Robeson, “If we do not learn by heart, the heart does not feel the rhythms of poetry as echoes or variations of its own insistent beat.”

Ginger Lambert will be offering her workshop “Poetry by Heart” at the Charlotte Senior Center on three Tuesdays, August 7, 14 and 21, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Register for all three or pay individually for each, $10. Poems are provided, or bring your own.