National Poetry Month Good for You? Well & Wise, Aren’t You Reaching a Bit?

Don’t laugh, well do because that has proven health benefits too—especially for children, but poetry may have healing properties. It has been linked to helping managing stress and anger, and even been employed  by the military to so; used to help stimulate memories in Alzheimer’s patients; and found useful for children coping with a parent who has Multiple Sclerosis.

The main health benefits associated with poetry seem in relation to how writing it can combat depression. In 2002,  Dr. Robin Philipp, a consultant in occupational and public health at Bristol Royal Infirmary stated he had “been inundated with people telling him how poetry had helped them after he and his colleagues sent a letter to the British Medical Journal asking whether poetry could benefit health.” Dr. Philipp said, “poetry worked as an ’emotional catharsis’ allowing people to get their thoughts onto paper.” He even went on to say that some people had weaned themselves off anti-depressants or tranquillizers using poetry, and with a doctor’s help.

Though more research is needed, poetry certainly couldn’t hurt. And April just happens to be National Poetry Month, so why not consider a little poetry therapy. There are many web sites and books on poetry and writing poetry, and there are some interesting books that suggest a poetry-health connection, such as:

On Relationships: A Book for Teenagers by Kimberly Kirberger
One-breasted Woman: Poems by Susan Deborah King
The Body Broken: A Memoir by Lynne A. Greenberg
She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey through Poems, a collection of poems selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy

Or consider picking up some poetry to lift your spirits (it’s not all dirges and daffodils, you know). For example, check out this one from Billy Collins featured by the Poetry Foundation:

Introduction to Poetry
By Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


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