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  • Charlotte

The Soul in Paraphrase

On learning poetry by heart in the small hours.


I've always thought that learning poetry by heart was a good idea, but until now I've never really committed to having a go. As far as I can remember, it wasn't all that common when I was at school. When it did happen, it was a bit of a drag, and certainly not something that happened by choice.


In this season of my life, I find I have little pockets of time I didn't have before, both during the day and night - especially at night - when I can reach for my phone, but not much else. Rather than reading emails, doom scrolling through social media or making impulse buys (all of which I have tried), I decided to have a go at learning the poems I really love.


After two weeks, at the speed of exactly one line per night, I had successfully learnt 'Prayer' by George Herbert. My goodness, what a sense of achievement, joy and nourishment to have this sonnet tucked away in my memory, which I have since brought to mind in the park with a friend, round a fire pit at a circle meditation, and numerous times during those routine tasks that fill the days in this season of my life as a potter-at-home-mum (PAHM).


So, how to get started if it's something you'd like to do? Here are a few things that I've found encouraging as I start committing to memory those 'comfort words' in my life:

  1. Choose something you *want* to learn. I started with a poem, but you might opt for jokes. Why not? In fact, I've decided to do that too, but I'll save sharing that for another time

  2. Commit to learning in those little pockets of time you realise you have (even waiting for the bus or for the kettle to boil)

  3. Write out the 'comfort words' you have chosen and stick them up somewhere (this is optional of course, but might help and be enjoyable, too)

  4. Start small, and even stay small if you like. Instead of a whole poem, even learning a phrase that captures your attention will be nourishing. I just love George Herbert's description of prayer as 'the soul in paraphrase'.

  5. Once you have started, be encouraged. You have begun!

  6. Revisit regularly to refresh your learning.

  7. Share the joy of learning by heart. Right now my main audience is my baby as my days are spent as a PAHM. If his gurgles and chuckles are anything to go by, he enjoys the poems too.