I used to do plays when I was younger. The roles I had usually only required me to remember choreography, maybe a line or two. The one play that had a larger speaking part wasn’t too bad, because it all seemed to have an internal logic which forced me to easily remember what to do, where to be, what to say.

Memorizing poetry, however, is something new to me. I was thrilled by the discovery that I perform better without a page in my hand. My hands move freely and they keep rhythm, they provide markers for the words to sit on, making it all easier to remember. I’m glad of this, as a hazard of reading poetry seems to be shoving a page in front of your face, disconnecting yourself and the audience.

How to remember in the first place though? I wrote out the piece on my computer, and read it over and over. I eventually stopped looking. Then I said it aloud to myself as I went about everyday things. In the shower. On the way to the tram. For the most part, this worked.

I put a call-out on Twitter for any tips anyone might have for memorizing. Veronica Cybluski was very helpful, providing the following ideas:
1) Find a beat or rhythm.
2) Stick a copy of the words around the house so you see it everywhere. Laminate it and put it in the shower.
3) Record yourself reading the piece, and listen back to it, possibly just before bed.

The laminating idea appeals to me. I heard once about people who record themselves reading their pieces at double-time, and learn them at that speed. That way when they’re on stage and have a brain-freeze, what feels like a big pause to regain their train of thought is actually only a slight pause.

My simple “repetition, repetition” theory worked well enough, but I’ll be trying everything mentioned above eventually to see how I can best remember my poetry for performance. Pieces really are stronger when you get rid of that page.

What’s your trick for remembering your work?