The Pros of Poetry

poetic-pen

There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.

– Gustave Flaubert, French Novelist

 

Creativity can build bridges and unlock doors both in the world and in all of our hearts. Perhaps that’s why creative writing, especially in the form of poetry has been around since earliest times as a means of cathartic self-expression. It is found in the Old Testament Psalms and in the work of the Roman physician “Soranus in the first century A.D., who prescribed tragedy for his manic patients and comedy for those who were depressed” (Freis, 2009).

According to The National Association for Poetry Therapy (2016) “poetry therapy encompasses the interactive use of literature and journal therapy (the use of life-based reflective writing) as well as therapeutic storytelling…and other language-based healing modalities.” Its positive effects are wide spread in helping people of all ages, races and backgrounds with all manner of issues—no matter if they are every-day stress or chronic mental or physical problems. This is because the “beneficial effect of expressive writing is the development of a coherent narrative over time, reflecting increasing cognitive processing of the experience” and in that processing we heal, adapt and overcome. In fact, “recent linguistic studies have shown that session-to-session variations in pronoun use are related to health improvements, which may reflect a transformation in the way people think about themselves in relation to others and the world” the more they write, read or process healing verse (Baikie and Wilhelm, 2005).

According to Dr. Karen Baikie. and Dr. Kay Wilhelm “the whole point is to bring up issues that are emotionally charged…to use as a short-term intervention to start a process of dialogue with themselves” so, these is the last word of prose that we will read today.

The rest of our dialogue on the history, benefits and do-it-yourself encouragement will be in lyrical verse from here on. Please feel free to see the footnotes for more details…and enjoy!

 

Apollo, you see, is the god of poetry,

But also of medicine.

It’s no surprise then, since ancient times

“medicine and the arts were historically entwined”

It’s also true, Benjamin Franklin knew in 1751

That poetry was therapy meant for everyone.

He founded Pennsylvania Hospital, the first in the US

Where “their mental patients” were assigned

“writing and publishing of their writings”

As a way to promote health. [2]

*

In modern times, we still use rhyme,

With feelings to express;

To “gain a sense of stability and self-awareness.” [2]

But there’s so much more health in store,

For the poet amateur.

Stress goes down a ton,

So does depression, blood pressure, and trauma symptoms, too

Science has found, that with these “downs”

Poetry makes many things improve.

Like immune system, lung and liver function

Like memory, sport performance, even sentence construction.

We call out sick less, and get new jobs faster,

Even our GPA gets better.

And all of these benefits go without saying,

Poetry helps “Improve mood [and] feelings of greater psychological well-being.” [1]

*

Wanna try it? How could you not, with all the benefits?

The best part is, you don’t have to share, or even be good at it.

Just find a quiet or private place,

For only 15-30 minutes every few days.

Put pen to paper or fingers to keys,

Or search online for some poetry

That says the words you wished you’d said

And write some words about that instead.

The important thing is to get it out of your head. [1, 2]

But if you feel you need it,

There are Poetry Therapists.

They “use all forms of literature and the language arts,” to help people feel well,

“and we are united by our love of words, and our passion for enhancing the lives of others and

ourselves.”

You can find them at The National Association for Poetry Therapy

Around since 1960 as “an energetic, world-wide community”

“of poets and writers,” readers and therapists

who love poetry and live it. [3]

I’m sure they’d welcome all of us in,

But would be first to say, that’s not the only way

To find the healing power of verse.

The best way, is to start today,

And simply to begin.

Signature --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

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[1] Baikie, K. and Wilhelm, K. (2005) Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (5) 338-346. Retrieved from: http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/11/5/338

[2] Fries, Todd (2009) Poetry Therapy Seminar Guide: Conquering adversity through verse. http://toddharrisfries.weebly.com/uploads/5/1/9/9/5199097/poetry_therapy_seminar.pdf

[3] The National Association for Poetry Therapy (2016) Retrieved from: http://www.poetrytherapy.org/

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