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4 Reasons Poetry is Good for Us

4 Reasons Poetry is Good for Us

 

Before there was writing, before there was prose, certainly way before there were such things as 140 character “tweets” and “status updates,” there was poetry.

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., a time to “celebrate  poetry and its vital place in American culture”; to read or even recite out loud  poems such as Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus (“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your  huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) or Alan Ginsberg’s Howl (“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by  madness, starving hysterical naked”).

Classes in poetry aren’t the most popular with most of my students. But if  analyzing metaphors in 18th-century poets isn’t your favorite activity, perhaps  you still enjoy reciting the lyrics of songs or keep a few words of some poem in  mind because it just says something in just the right way.

Poet Robert Pinsky has suggested that poetry evolved to “hold things in memory,  both within and beyond the individual life span; to achieve intensity and  sensuous appeal; to express feelings and ideas rapidly and  memorably.” Poetry may  not help you to get a six-figure job, but  composing a haiku forces you to condense your thoughts into just a few  words and focus on what you mean. Four  reasons that poetry can be good for us:

1) Writing poetry has helped hospital patients recovering from medical  illnesses.

Shamans once chanted poems as part of religious healing rites, according to  the National Association For Poetry Therapy. A 2008  documentary, Healing  Words, showed how a doctor and a poet were able to help patients with  serious medical conditions  (including a Vietnam veteran awaiting a  transplant) to write poems that helped them to recall “an essential truth about  themselves — a memory from childhood or a moment of insight — and deepens their  understanding of their lives and their illnesses.”  The poetry writing was  found to aid patients in releasing deeply private feelings, thereby playing a role in their  healing process.

2) Poetry could help with depression.

Studies undertaken by arts and health organizations and agencies  in the U.K. have looked at whether writing poetry could be “the new Prozac.” One study investigated whether poetry writing might increase levels of  secretory immunoglobin; the secretory immune system has been called “the body’s first  line against invading organisms” and also plays a role in how our moods  fluctuate throughout the day. Another considered whether writing poetry could help with depression and wean people off  anti-depressants.

These studies have been inconclusive, but that doesn’t mean poetry writing  didn’t help. Poetry may not be a panacea for illness, but it doesn’t hurt and  could be at least a non-intrusive placebo.

3)   Learning poems by heart is good for your memory.

Making the effort to memorize a poem helps to “take the poem inside you, into  your brain chemistry if not your blood,” the writer Brad Leithauser wrote  in The New Yorker. While some say that memorizing poems doesn’t help with other tasks, in a day and  age when we need to concoct passwords with alpha-numeric characters and some  punctuation mark, and then to recall them, exercising your memory capacity by  learning a poem can have its uses.

An organization called the Alzheimer’s  Poetry Project (APP) seeks to use poetry to help people those dealing with  memory loss to, indeed, remember things. The APP conducts poetry workshops to  help stimulate the memory of those with Alzheimer’s, via a group  call-and-response session and the creation of a group poem, built from  participants’ own words.

4) Writing poetry can  improve your writing (and thinking).

Writing a poem means that you have to focus your thoughts and only use so  many words. For these reasons, some writing teachers suggest that writing a poem  (or rather poems — practice makes perfect) can help to improve  your writing skills overall, even if you’re writing fiction and have no  intentions of ever publishing, or trying to get, a poem published.

As poet Elizabeth Alexander, who read her poetry at President Barack Obama’s  2009 inauguration ceremony, has said, “poetry models precise and mindful language is useful,  because after all if we can’t be precise with language, how can we share ideas?”  — in other words, how can we effectively communicate with each  other?

Looking for a new poetry book to nourish your soul?  Here’s one to remind you of the song in your own heart… 

On her  37th birthday Leesa suffered a brain hemorrhage  caused by a rare, vascular disorder known as an AVM/CA and  could not talk, read, or write.  Her ability to write this book is a  miracle!  On  the pages of this book, she’s shared some meaningful  moments with us.   Using powerful and vivid imagery, compiled with  elegance and grace, Leesa draws readers into the depth of  the beauty of her words.  Various poems offer praise exploding  with adoration in torrents of poetic language while others  present intriguing topics in great depth. Her words of love  are skillfully written and seem to dance off the page!  So step inside,  into her heart, and listen to the Melodies From  Within
Melodies From Within: a collection in verse can be ordered directly from Leesa’s publisher, AuthorHouse, by visiting authorhouse. Books may also be purchased from amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your neighborhood bookstore. Melodies From Within is also available in the United Kingdom (UK) from  abebooks, in Australia from fishpond, in New Zealand from fishpond, in Italy from libreria universitaria, in Canada from Indigo, and in South Africa at loot.

Enjoy!  

By Kristina Chew

Photo from Thinkstock
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Beloved Bella

Beloved Bella  

 With her enduring expression of love, I began each day smiling.

snorting, she arrives bedside

many morning kisses

understanding, unconditional love, and acceptance;

our communication, a language all our own

so special

showing me I can love again.

 

Looking into our eyes, we saw beyond our hearts, sharing an amazing life

“I see you!”

 I said to her so many times.

 

The tender touch of her nose on my face;

training together, constant companions

her expressions, her voice, her sounds, her touch, her thinking.

 

Embracing everything that made her her

forever friends

charming companion

the love of my life, a gift from God

absolutely and always the best

a blessing beyond belief

gifts given of devotion, happiness, love, joy. 

 

Beside beloved Bella as she took her last breath

 peace and healing now hers,

honoring our commitment, her spirit soars!

 

 Arrival in heaven

now with God, her creator, the one who made her so special

separated for a time.

 

A lap ride for her first time and last time home;

my aching heart cries out!

grace given by God.

 

Our heavenly reunion awaits

moments become memories and

with her enduring expression of love, I begin each day smiling.

                                                                                                                         Leesa A. Wheeler

March 1999 ~ July 2011

A Celebration of The Human Spirit ~~~ The Thirty Three

The Thirty Three

Buried deep inside the fiery bowels of earth

Hope held fast

Rocks rained as darkness and dust surrounded,

Still, faith stood strong

Hearts worldwide worked together to rescue fellow man

God given gifts given to save lives

One by one, 33 souls traveled the narrow path

Moment by moment reaching for the earth’s surface

Anticipation filled hearts and eyes

Refreshed as lungs finally breathed in fresh, cool Chilean air

Their arrival an unforgettable celebration!

Cheers and Praise rose to heaven   

Reuniting with loved ones

As tears and joy flowed, ours and theirs

Our world watched the unfolding, united

As one world, one people, rejoiced!

 

 Leesa A. Wheeler

 

© 2010 Leesa A. Wheeler. All Rights Reserved.

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