The Joy and Benefits of Memorization

Put Down the Music

Put Down the Music

The following article was shared with Mountain Melody, and it perfectly sums up the joy
and benefits of memorization.
The brain can be a tricky fellow, but it really is amazing how memorization works.
When you least expect it, the words and music can just come out of your mouth when you need it most.
And need it we do — performances are coming up next week!
So keep on memorizing!


Studies prove that the more the brain is exercised, the stronger it gets. According to neurologist Richard M. Restak, author of Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot, ” unlike other organs that eventually wear out with repeated and sustained use, the brain actually improves the more we challenge it….The more we exercise it, the better it performs and the better we feel.”

Another practical reason: it’s good for your heart. The March 2003 issue of GreatLife Magazine, referring to a recent article in the International Journal of Cardiology, extolled the effects reciting poetry has on your heart. “These two scientists found that the stress-releasing effect of guided recitation of poetry could lead to deep heart relaxation afterward….after reciting poetry (for half and hour), participants’ heart rates slowed to match their breathing rates in ‘harmonic interaction.'”

Finally, if those very encouraging studies aren’t good enough for you, here’s this: memorizing poetry proves to you that you can accomplish something complicated. Recognizing that about yourself is no small potatoes. It’s my answer to those who roll their eyes when considering algebra, saying (all together now) “I’ll never use this when I grow up. What’s the point?” The point is this: while I understand (I’m not a fan of algebra), proving to yourself that you can solve a difficult problem is superb for your self-esteem. Afterwards you can look at those equations and (a) remember when you didn’t understand and (b) know the pride you have in yourself is well-deserved.

But if memorizing poetry were only good for me—if that’s all it was, if it were like taking those dreary vitamins every morning—I’d have stopped long before now.

To be honest with you, it’s amazing. It’s—I have no other word for it—magic.
I struggle for days with a stanza or a couple of lines, and then suddenly I wake up and they’re there. They’re in me. When they’re called, they come.

And I like knowing these poems. I like hearing their sounds in my mouth. I like knowing I can do this, can memorize them, and that I have them in my head ready to come out. In spite of it being good for my heart and my brain, memorizing these poems so I can recite them is utter pleasure—hedonistic and sensual, pure and simple.

Susan Rushton — Author and Reporter @ Large
(And Julie’s sister)