We’re a week into National Poetry Month. I’ve posted a few poems with more to come, but here I’ll reflect upon the benefits of writing poetry. Some may point out that this is one-sided because the pantheon of poets is littered with opium addicts and suicidal depressives. I read a BBC article citing research showing poets were 20 times more likely to be institutionalized than the non-poet population. I maintain that those bards were broken from the beginning, and that there’s another side to the story.
5.) Poems are puzzles, and puzzles make you problem-solve. This may be more true of structured poetry than free verse, but a poem wrangles words into a relationship designed to create a desired outcome–often an emotional state. With structured poetry one faces a tight puzzle that’s constrained by syllable counts, the relation of stressed and unstressed beats, or rhyme schemes. But even free verse cuts away everything that dampens a desired resonance. That’s done by a series of strategic choices.
4.) Poetry aids emotional management. A study by UCLA researchers found that poetry writing dampens the activity of the amygdala (the brain’s bringer of fear) and, of course, gives the pre-frontal cortex something to do (besides creating catastrophic scenarios–which is its go-to occupation under stress.)
3.) Poetry helps build better prose. Some writers will be more concise and others will be more graphic, but there’s always a benefit to be had. I found a NaNoWriMo blog post that tackles this topic nicely, so I’ll just link.
2.) Poetry activates attentiveness. This is especially true of a form like haiku, which consists of natural observation unembellished by analysis or sentiment. However, all poetry styles require one examine the world intensely enough to see the old anew. This post may be of interest on the topic.
1.) Poetry can access the unconscious. As a practice, I often just put pencil to paper write whatever comes without intervening or directing my conscious mind. Yes, most of it’s crap. Or not even crap–more like gibberish. But when I go back through these later on, phrases often jump out at me as interesting or evocative, and these often find their way into the heart of actual poems. This is a particularly beneficial practice when one is stuck.