In the words of its founders, Poetry by Heart is a national competition designed to encourage school and college pupils to memorise poetry, "not in an arm-waving, props-supported thespian extravaganza, but as the outward and audible manifestation of an inwardly-understood and enjoyed poem." Their 'poetry promise' initiative coincides with a renewed interest in the benefits of committing verse to memory: the Poetry and Memory project was set up in 2014 by the University of Cambridge as an interdisciplinary attempt to investigate experiences of poetry learning, and examine the relationships between memorisation, recitation and understanding.
When I was writing my PhD thesis on poetry and neuroscience, I got very interested in Michael Donaghy's discussion in The Shape of the Dance of the role of poetry in memorisation. He noted the similarities between the ancient mnemonic technique of creating a 'memory palace' and the discrete stanzas of a poem - 'stanza' coming from the Italian for 'room'. Donaghy, of course, used to perfrom his own poems from memory - you can hear some recordings of him on the Poetry Archive.
|Kinder in the Christmas snow. Photo by Ben Wilkinson.|
If you'd like to make a 'poetry promise' too (and it doesn't have to be a feat of memorisation: you could just pledge to read a new poem each month, for example) get in touch with @PoetryByHeart on twitter for more information.