In “The Notebook,” Noah’s dad encourages him to practice reading poetry to help him overcome the stutter he had as a child.
Why on earth is this relevant to Spanish?
A stutter is oftentimes rooted in uncertainty or lack of confidence in speaking.
That’s something that every Spanish learner can identify with.
The good news is, all of these feelings can be channeled into a productive outlet, like reading poetry and learning more Spanish.
Why Spanish Learners Should Memorize Spanish Poetry
Spanish poetry offers a plethora of ways to promote language learning, from read-aloud practice to understanding the grammatical arrangement of Spanish words.
You can shake up your study routine. Anyone trying to learn Spanish knows that it takes time and energy, but sometimes the most traditional ways of learning can start to weary even the most dedicated student of the language.
Flashcards, pocket dictionaries, translation apps, workbooks, oh my.
That’s why it’s great to get off the beaten path and stray into zones you might not even be familiar with in English!
It’s a huge boost for your brain. The adult brain, when trying to learn a new language, expands its neuroplasticity. Poems present a new way to learn new vocabulary and also offer an opportunity to practice speaking more smoothly as well.
Literary themes in the Latin American community are very interesting. Spanish is a lyrical, lovely language. As in many languages, poetry in Spanish can explore otherwise controversial and transgressive themes. It can discuss deep political or personal themes. All of this makes for intriguing reading. Learning poems from different countries and regions can even be a great way to sneak in a history lesson or two.
5 Tips on Reading and Memorizing Poems in Spanish
Beginning with children’s poetry primes you for the different tenses and structures of poems in Spanish. Much like children’s poetry in English, children’s poems in Spanish utilize simple repetition and describe literal imagery throughout the poem, meaning that children’s poetry is a good vocabulary builder.
Starting with children’s poems can, in effect, be used as a strong stepping-stone to reading and memorizing more complex poetry in Spanish.
Reading aloud will help with your general speaking ability, because speaking Spanish is really the only way to get better at, well, speaking Spanish. As speaking is often the element language learners struggle with the most, you’ll be ahead of the game if you take a deep breath and practice out loud.
Put the poem where you’ll see it
Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. What’s the point of working to pronounce a poem if you’re just going to forget what you’ve read? By printing out little copies of each poem and sticking them in places you’ll be sure to see them (think: mirrors, doors, refrigerators), both the poem and the Spanish will stay in your mind for the long term.
Write it out from memory
Once you’ve practiced saying it, and you’re familiar with seeing it, take a pad of paper and try to write out the poem from memory. You’ll be surprised by how much you do or don’t remember without the prompt in front of you, and it can be a good gauge to see if you’ve really learned what the words mean as well. Maybe you forget a word part-way through but fill in the correct one based on the rhyme or theme of the poem.
Listen to the poem spoken out loud
If you want to engage with Spanish poetry with your ears, you can find plenty of poetry readings online.
Better yet, you can find a nice selection of Spanish poems read out loud by native Spanish speakers on FluentU.
FluentU comes with the benefit of having ever word defined clearly through interactive subtitles, and follow-up quizzes to help you remember everything you hear.
Some of the poems you can hear on FluentU with learner support are “Over Time” by Jorge Luis Borges, “The Lovers” by Julio Cortázar, “Request” by Gioconda Belli and more!
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos topics, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used.
Plus, if you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re studying with the same video.
8 Simple Spanish Poems That Are Ridiculously Easy to Memorize
Starting Point: Children’s Poems
Douglas Wright is a famous writer of children’s poetry from Argentina. His simple language and construction of imagery as perceived by a child makes it a good starting point for Spanish-language learners to get their feet wet.
Learning a language after our first puts us back onto the same square as children, seeing the world with new and appreciative eyes, with a lot of questions to boot.
Below are three poems by Wright that offer a great mix of imagery, vocabulary and brevity for the Spanish-language-learner endeavoring to memorize poetry.
“Bien tomados de la mano” (Holding Hands Firmly) by Douglas Wright
Qué lindo que es caminar, (how nice it is to walk,)
bien tomados de la mano, (holding hands firmly,)
por el barrio, por la plaza, (through the neighborhood, through the plaza,)
¿qué sé yo?, por todos lados. (What do I know?, everywhere.)
Qué lindo es mirar los árboles, (How nice it is to look at the trees,)
bien tomados de la mano, (holding hands firmly,)
desde el banco de la plaza, (from the bench in the plaza,)
en el que estamos sentados. (in which we are sitting.)
Qué lindo es mirar el cielo (How nice it is to look at the sky)
bien tomados de la mano; (holding hands firmly;)
en nuestros ojos, volando, (in our eyes, flying,)
dos pájaros reflejados. (two reflected birds.)
Qué lindo que es caminar (How nice it is to walk)
bien tomados de la mano; (holding hands firmly;)
¡qué lindo, andar por la vida (how nice, to walk through life)
de la mano bien tomados! (with hands held firmly!)
This sweet poem about walking hand in hand with someone has a lot going for it in terms of how easy to memorize it is!
The repetition along with fun, childish imagery, like looking at trees, looking at the sky and looking at reflections, makes this very easy to memorize. However, this ease is offset by its length. Make sure you break it up into four different sections to memorize.
“Bajo la luna” (Under the Moon) by Douglas Wright
Todos callados, (Everyone is quiet,)
bajo la luna; (under the moon;)
el bosque, el lago, (the forest, the lake,)
el cerro, el monte, (the hill, the mountain,)
bajo la luna, (under the moon,)
todos callados. (everyone is quiet.)
This quick, pretty poem is entirely about appreciating the silence. It begins and opens with the same phrase, meaning “everyone is quiet” and then lists everything that’s quiet on this night. A fun and short one to have stuck in your head all day (or week).
“El brillo de las estrellas” (The Shine of the Stars) by Douglas Wright
Mejor que todos los fuegos (Better than all fires)
que llaman artificiales, (they call artificial,)
el brillo de las estrellas, (the shine of the stars,)
esos fuegos naturales. (those natural fires.)
Four lines, no problem. This sweet poem about the brilliance of the stars also brings up a couple words most Spanish beginners probably won’t know, but these will definitely come in handy around the fourth of July. Can you figure out how to say “fireworks” from context clues? (Answer: fuegos artificiales.)
Next Steps: Easy Poems for Adults
Once you have some children’s poetry under your belt, you can move on to some simple adult poetry. Don’t feel put off by classic Spanish poetry—much of it is actually very accessible, even when it’s on the longer side! Check out our picks below.
“Cancioncilla Sevillana” (Seville Song) by Federico García Lorca
en el naranjel. (in the orange grove.)
Abejitas de oro (Golden bees)
buscaban la miel. (were looking for honey.)
¿Dónde estará (Where could it be,)
la miel? (the honey?)
Está en la flor azul, (It’s in the blue flower,)
En la flor, (In the flower,)
del romero aquel. (of that rosemary.)
(Sillita de oro ([Gold chair)
para el moro. (for the Moor.)
Silla de oropel (Tinsel chair)
para su mujer.) (for his wife.])
en el naranjel. (in the orange grove.)
Playwright and poet Federico García Lorca was born in the Andalusia region of Spain. He was the son of a wealthy landowner and grew up surrounded by the beauty of the land he loved.
The countryside influenced his poetry. “Cancioncilla Sevillana” draws from nature, with his mention of orange tree, bees and honey. But the poet also names a woman, leaving the reader to wonder just exactly what the author had in mind when he penned this poem.
Lorca’s life ended tragically. The poet was assassinated in 1936 and his remains have never been recovered.
This poem is short and sweet—an ideal poem for Spanish language learners to memorize and recite. Also, it paints a vivid picture of a tranquil scene, using creative vocabulary.
“Viento, agua, piedra” (Wind, Water, Stone) by Octavio Paz
A Roger Caillois (For Roger Caillois)
El agua horada la piedra, (The water has hollowed the stone,)
el viento dispersa el agua, (the wind dispersed the water,)
la piedra detiene al viento. (the stone stopped the wind.)
Agua, viento, piedra. (Water, wind, stone.)
El viento esculpe la piedra, (The wind sculpts the stone,)
la piedra es copa del agua, (the stone is a cup of water,)
el agua escapa y es viento. (the water runs off and is wind.)
Piedra, viento, agua. (Stone, wind, water.)
El viento en sus giros canta, (The wind sings in its turnings,)
el agua al andar murmura, (the water murmurs as it goes,)
la piedra inmóvil se calla. (the immovable stone is quiet.)
Viento, agua, piedra. (Wind, water, stone.)
Uno es otro y es ninguno: (One is the other and is neither:)
entre sus nombres vacíos (Among their empty names)
pasan y se desvanecen (they pass and disappear)
agua, piedra, viento. (water, stone, wind.)
Octavio Paz was a Mexican poet and essayist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990. While some of his early work focuses on his homeland, much of his poetry and writing are observations and commentaries on the similarities of humans regardless of their location.
“Viento, agua, piedra” (“Wind, water, stone”) speaks to the way that all is connected. Humans, nature and situations all impact each other and he shows that by painting a mind picture of wind sculpting stone, water running off and so on.
This poem benefits Spanish language learners by providing reading practice material that can be taken both at face value or as something deeper. It’s up to the learner to dive between the layers and contemplate its meaning or to simply enjoy the lyrical properties of this poem. Plus, the repetition makes it easy to remember easily.
“Oda a los calcetines” (Ode to My Socks) by Pablo Neruda
Me trajo Maru Mori (Maru Mori brought me)
un par de calcetines (a pair of socks)
que tejió con sus manos de pastora, (that she knitted herself with her sheepherder’s hands,)
dos calcetines suaves como liebres. (two socks as soft as rabbit fur.)
En ellos metí los pies (Into them I slipped my feet)
como en dos estuches (as though into two cases)
tejidos con hebras del (knit with thread of)
crepúsculo y pellejo de ovejas. (twilight and sheepskin.)
Violentos calcetines, (Violent socks,)
mis pies fueron dos pescados de lana, (my feet were two fish made of wool,)
(two large sharks)
de azul ultramarino (of sea-blue)
atravesados por una trenza de oro, (crossed by one golden thread,)
dos gigantescos mirlos, (two immense blackbirds,)
dos cañones; (two cannons;)
mis pies fueron honrados de este modo (my feet were honored in this way)
por estos celestiales calcetines. (by these heavenly socks.)
Eran tan hermosos que por primera vez (They were so beautiful that for the first time)
mis pies me parecieron inaceptables (my feet seemed to me unacceptable)
como dos decrépitos bomberos, (like two decrepit firemen,)
bomberos indignos de aquel fuego bordado, (firemen unworthy of that woven fire,)
de aquellos luminosos calcetines. (of those glowing socks.)
Sin embargo resistí la tentación (Nevertheless I resisted the sharp temptation)
aguda de guardarlos como los colegiales (to save them somewhere as schoolboys)
preservan las luciérnagas, (keep fireflies)
como los eruditos coleccionan (as learned men collect)
documentos sagrados, (sacred texts,)
resistí el impulso furioso de ponerlos (I resisted the mad impulse to put them)
en una jaula de oro y darles cada (into a golden cage and give them every)
día alpiste y pulpa de melón rosado. (day birdseed and pink melon flesh.)
Como descubridores que en la selva (Like explorers in the jungle)
entregan el rarísimo venado verde (who hand over the very rare green deer)
al asador y se lo comen con remordimiento, (to the spit and eat it with remorse,)
estiré los pies y me enfundé (I stretched out my feet and pulled on)
los bellos calcetines y luego los zapatos. (the magnificent socks and then my shoes.)
Y es ésta la moral de mi Oda: (And this is the moral of my Ode:)
dos veces es belleza la belleza, (beauty is twice beauty,)
y lo que es bueno es doblemente bueno, (and what is good is doubly good,)
cuando se trata de dos calcetines (when it is a matter of two socks)
de lana en el invierno. (made of wool in winter.)
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who is often called one of the most influential poets in history. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His work focused on human feelings and frailties as well as political and social events.
“Oda a los calcetines”(“Ode to My Socks”) is one of the poet’s lighter offerings. In it, he talks about how wonderful the pair of socks he has been gifted is. He compares them to many things but in the end he puts them on—and tells that they are most wonderful when used as intended. They are two warm socks made in winter—and they are very good, indeed.
You might feel intimidated by the length of this one, but the story-telling nature makes it actually surprisingly easy to follow and remember. Spanish language learners can use this poem as a great resource for speaking practice. It uses basic vocabulary and its meaning doesn’t require lots of deep thinking. It is one of my favorite poems—and one of the first I learned to recite!
More Challenging Practice: Complex Poems for Adults
“Cultivo una rosa blanca” by José Martí
Cultivo una rosa blanca (I cultivate a white rose)
en junio como enero (in June and January)
para el amigo sincero (for the true friend)
que me da su mano franca. (who gives me his sincere hand.)
Y para el cruel que me arranca (And for the cruel one who rips out)
el corazón con que vivo, (the heart with which I live,)
cardo ni ortiga cultivo; (I don’t cultivate the thistle or the nettle;)
cultivo la rosa blanca. (I cultivate the white rose.)
This poem by Cuban poet José Martí has the repetitive element going for it as well, but there’s a lot to dig into with regard to themes and symbolism—why a rose, why those months, why the word cultivate? Deceptively complex but still short and easy to memorize, this is a good poem to get you deeper into the language.
Cuba has long been rife with churning political waters, and this author’s politician/writer combination will appeal to history buffs who also happen to be learning Spanish. Martí was exposed to revolutionary ideals as a young man, and these passions were fully kindled when his friend and mentor was imprisoned for fighting the political establishment in the 1860s and 70s. As a writer, Martí is heralded as one of the fore-founders of Modernist literature in Latin America.
“Desde mi pequeña vida” (From My Small Life) by Margarita Carrera (Guatemala)
Desde mi pequeña vida (From my small life)
te canto (I sing to you)
y lloro tu sangre (and I cry your blood)
por las calles derramada (shed in the streets)
y lloro tu cuerpo (and I cry your body)
y tu andar perdido. (and your lost walk.)
Ahora estoy aquí (Now I am here)
de nuevo contigo (again with you)
Tu sangre (Your blood)
es mi sangre (is my blood)
y tu grito se queda (and your scream stays)
en mis pupilas (in my pupils)
en mi cantar mutilado. (in my mutilated singing.)
Words like desde (from) are words that the Spanish language (and all languages, really) hinge on to really connect what we know with what we can say. Desde means from, which sets the stage for a powerful poem about a woman reflecting on the injustice that many people were suffering in Guatemala during the Civil War. She tries to connect to all those who died defending an ideal to what she considers to be her small, insignificant life because she can’t make a difference.
Margarita Carrera was born in the late 1920s, and her writing has tons of historical relevance as she was the first woman to graduate from the San Carlos of Guatemala University. In addition to poems, she produced writing as an essayist and professor.
Final Thoughts on Spanish Poetry
Finding beauty in the words is easy…
…but you need to really commit if you want to understand it! Using children’s poetry to bridge the gap between beginning Spanish and intermediate Spanish is a brilliant way to start.
More complex poetry is also a great way to advance your interest in different areas of Latin American culture. Many poems in Spanish denote the author’s preoccupations with events or themes in their home country, and learning about a country via its literature is an ability well worth aspiring to.
Also, the grammar lessons and reviews inherent in poetry can’t be overstated—reading Spanish poetry is a sneaky way to trick yourself into reviewing and retaining grammar rules that tend to make all the difference in a sentence.
Have fun browsing for words that strike a chord with you, and remember that all difficult things become easier with practice.
The key is keeping the practice fresh and fun!
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