I never have a class where I require my students to memorize poems. This has nothing to do with how useful/pleasurable that might be and everything to do with my secret childhood piano recital memorization fiasco. In the only college class where I was required to memorize a poem, I went with Philip Larkin's "This be the Verse," because of the rhyme and meter and brevity--all of which helped me fulfill the requirement.
I'm reminded of memorization because this month, since it is National Poetry Month, I've been posting a quotation from one of my favorite poems most days.
"The small rain down can rain."
"The knife there on the shelf—
it reeked of meaning, like a crucifix.
It lived. How many years did I
beg it, implore it, not to break?
I knew each nick and scratch by heart,
the bluish blade, the broken tip,
the lines of wood-grain on the handle ... "
From Crusoe in England by Elisabeth Bishop
"First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
and the devotion to their plastic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight rows of chairs,
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn't work."
--from "Rowing" by Anne Sexton
"But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity."
from Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"
"It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes."
From Pablo Neruda's "Walking Around"
Tomorrow, I think it's going to be Robert Creeley: "I Knew a Man."