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Poetry: How it Benefits Our Mental and Emotional Health

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Poetry exists all around us, and it gives our mental and emotional health a positive boost. It can be seen in books, speeches, greeting cards, and songs. Its definition is as varied as there are poets.

Among other definitions, poetry is “writing that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm”— Britannica.

While the above is just one out of perhaps hundreds of definitions of poetry, what is common to most of them is its elevated language and link with emotions. That is to say; poetry stirs our emotions with words arranged in such a way that we feel the message in a very deep part of our being. Same way music does.

Poetry and Mental/Emotional Health

Cognitive Function: Poetry goes beyond reading words. It is about understanding these words’ sounds, meanings, and emotions. When the brain puts all these together, its function peaks, strengthening a person’s overall cognitive health. It is, therefore, logical to say that poetry makes one smarter overall.

The poem below, culled from the book Storms and Anchor, is a beautiful arrangement of words, but beyond the words are emotions and meanings, which the brain is put to the task of deciphering. This exercise promotes the brain’s cognitive function:

We Shall Still See at Dawn

When the sun sets on me

While my work is still not done

And my songs flee from me

When it is not yet dawn,

You may cry but let me be

For we shall still see at dawn.

Even though you search for my laughter

From the shadows of our past

Or long for words I did utter

Before death’s bugle blast,

You may cry but let me be

For we shall still see at dawn.

Mood and Emotion: Poetry has the potential to provide comfort and cheer us up when we are going through difficulties. Its structured arrangement and combination of words, figures of speech, and sometimes rhyme helps the reader to make sense of the nature of existence. Consider this poem and its theme of the brevity of life:

A Short Span

Dawn comes with a song

That is soon sung.

Then arrives the solemnness of nightfall

And the call that awaits all.

Where the sorrowful notes of the flute

Blend with the owl’s hoot,

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As mourners await their turn

To be mourned in return.

Memory: Poetry also improves memory. Scientific studies have shown that poetry lights up the part of the brain that is activated when one is daydreaming. As a result, poetry often sticks with the reader who reads and re-reads and even memorizes the words. In the course of memorizing poetry, memory improves, and one becomes more receptive to remembering other information as well.

The poem below evokes imagery that stimulates memory and self-reflection. Try memorizing it and reciting it after three days to test your memory!

Entreaty

Amid the hisses and rattles

Of shameless emissaries of rift,

The nagging voice of virtue proclaims:

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“Quench this conflagration!

Why set the house ablaze

To smite a thieving rat?

For when dogs pull down their shelter

Over a piece of dry bone,

They make themselves victim

Of the midnight downpour.”

Let the flame of peace

Light up our hearts darkened by hate.

Let the sounds from drums of peace

Drown the hissing of our hate.

The thick wall of distrust

Which had blurred the light of brotherliness

Will be razed by our mutual smiles.

Then our sons shall learn

To eat from the same pot.

Therefore, bring a little poetry into your everyday life for your brain health. 

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Get a good book of poems and try reading it aloud. The book Storms and Anchor has a great collection of inspirational poems.

Heartfelt feelings and longings are painted in beautiful words. The poems take one on a journey of the realities of existence. Please visit here for the book “Storms and Anchor.”

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By Uchenna Egeonu

Uchenna Egeonu is an accountant by profession and a creative writer by inclination. He possesses a rich heritage of proverbs which he employs in his writings to give that distinctive African hue and flavour. He has a self-published collection of poems and several yet-to-be-published creative works.

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