Thoughts on Collecting Words and Memorizing Poems
Alina Happy Hansen
Words are the blood and bone for all poets. It is crucial for poets to understand that one’s poetry can only evolve and mature by a constant habit of studying words, styles, forms and the memorization of poetry. I admit, I need to work on these habits myself but I do try to keep up with one particular exercise and that is collecting and studying words.
I have a small notebook (pictured above) that I keep close to my desk or latest pile of books at all times. Inside are pages of words that I want to learn, memorize, and use in my poetry. Usually I start a new entry by writing down the date then writing down the words I want to add. Occasionally I will write a specific definition that makes it easier for me to learn the word. I have not memorized or utilized all the words in my ‘Word Notebook’ yet since there are too many but this habit keeps me on the look out for new words, strange or unknown, that fascinate me.
An expansive knowledge of words and their meanings benefits a poet in their writing since every single words counts. Poems are created through a concise and condensed build up of words. Each word is crucial in the construction of a poem because it only takes a few words to create a memorable outstanding poem, or a few words to ruin an entire piece (but honestly you can have 2/3rd s of an amazing poem and then a 3rd of so-so and still love the poem to death).
The habit of memorizing poems (often great classics) benefits the poet by teaching them the importance of rhythm and punctuation. After a poet learns to read poetry, much like reading music, it is then a whole new challenge for a poet (or anybody!) to perform a poem. I say ‘perform’ because poetry is not like other forms of writing. Poetry originates in ballads and songs sung in the ancient past usually about heroes, conquests, wars, and love. Poetry is an art form created with words and like art it must be presented in an appropriate manner to audiences.
The form of poetry depends entirely on the placement of words and punctuation (or lack thereof) knowing how to read a poem is a step away from knowing how to read aloud a poem (to perform the piece). Acknowledgement of these aspects of learning and studying poetry helps the poet grow as a reader and writer. It is the same concept that a musician has to music. Study it, learn it, perform it THEN creating it yourself suddenly becomes an exciting venture.
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