Yesterday was officially ‘International Teachers’ Day’ and ‘National Poetry Day’ and while the two are not necessarily related, it made me think about how my love of poetry was nurtured by one of my most memorable primary school teachers. I remember how I loved learning poems by heart and how I can still recall many poems and chunks of the stanzas – they live with me forever. What a gift my teacher gave me!
But why learn poems by heart? Apart from the sheer joy of having something committed to memory for ever, there are so many benefits of using the time to have in your repertoire, beautiful succinct phrases that help us look at life perhaps in a different way, much as looking at a painting might do.
The rhythm of the iambic pentameter (as in Shakespeare’s verse) makes the whole process of learning much easier than it might seem when faced with a poem of many verses. The repetition in our minds, saying it out loud, helps the brain process and remember. The trick is not to learn it line by line, but verse by verse as the rhyme and the rhythm will help carry the words.
In assembly this week, I have tasked all the pupils to learn a poem by heart by Christmas. This will be an early Christmas gift to us all. Here is the first verse of the poem that I will be learning:
Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.