This is the best basic short introduction to Memory/brain training I've found:
I'm still trying to figure out the best tools for poetry memorizing, as that is one of my main hopes. The more I research, the more I believe that specific mental tools have to be used for rapid memorization of specific types of information - poetry one way, numbers another, etc.
Oh, by the way, Ed Cooke (referenced in article) fascinating fellow. More to come on him, certainly.
Also, a brief thought: Notice that breaking 1 minute, 30 seconds to memorize a pack of cards in the US is a US record, and still 3 times as long as the international record. Have anything to do with our much-commented-upon standard test scores? Methinks perhaps.