You will already know many things by heart and thinking about what and how you learned them is an excellent starting point for competition preparation. Here are some additional activities to help develop memorisation techniques.
Focus on familiarity
Get together with a few other students and one poem you all like from the anthology. Stand up so you get used to this for your performance and read it aloud together, a line at a time each. Keep going round, a line at a time, until you have read it three times. Then mix it up and do a stanza each at a time until you’ve each read the whole poem through. Then start working on your own performance.
Rhyme and reason
Pick a rhyming poem from the anthology. Put the rhyme words on sticky notes, jumbled up so that the sequence isn’t immediately evident. Have a partner read it aloud, pausing at the rhyme words for you to fill the gap. Repeat the completed line together then listen for the next rhyme word. It gets easier as you work out the pattern of the rhymes. How else is the poem patterned in ways that might help you memorise it?
Remember the refrain
Pick a poem with a repeated refrain, such as Tichborne’s elegy in which each stanza ends, ‘And now I live, and now my life is done’. Rehearse until you have that one line by heart, then get a partner to read the poem with pauses to let you chime in with it at the right point. Extend it to the first lines of each stanza, then pairs of lines, then a whole stanza. You’ll soon have it by heart.
Write it right
Copy the poem out by hand. Cutting and pasting or clicking a print button is of course quicker but both are pretty useless as a technique for developing memory. To make the act of writing more memorable, try different combinations of pen and paper (yellow paper, red ink, for example). Keep copying it out until you no longer need the pen and paper.
Walk and talk
One of the supports for memory will be the poem’s patterns and variations of rhythm. If the weather’s up to it, or if you have a space you can move around in, get up on your feet to walk the poem, thinking about pace, flows and transitions. If it worked for Wordsworth in writing it, it’ll work for you feeling your way inside the poem.