To memorize something effectively, you have to expend some interpretive effort on it, and with this effort you wind up in something like a conversation with the text. Grasping at least the literal meaning–not necessarily as easy as you might think, I’ve learned in my teaching–is the most efficient way of mastering a poem, so you can’t help but learn something more than just the words in the process. And the richer the text, the more there is to absorb. It’s sad that such a truly mind-expanding practice has been saddled with a reputation as just the opposite….
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