Poetry for Wellness & Healing

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”

Or so said American poet Carl Sandburg, eloquently summing up what many have tried.

And science might just have proved him right.

Researchers at the University of Exeter have used imaging techniques to discover the effects that different types of writing have on the brain, with interesting results.

When volunteers were asked to read their favorite poems, scientists found that areas of the brain linked to memory were stimulated much more than those linked to reading.

Compared to when the volunteers were reading prose, the team noted that poetry activated areas associated with introspection much more frequently.

The Conclusion?

Poetry is recollection and we don’t think it can be better summed up than in Sandburg’s quotation.

Not only does this study show the possibilities that emerge when art and science meet, but it points to the potential of poetry as a transformative tool.

Modern life can be hard to navigate. Whether you’re working, studying, or currently somewhere in between, there isn’t often time to simply reflect. With the ubiquity of smartphones and laptops, it becomes even more difficult to switch off.

Yet the digital revolution has also seen a stream of poets, like Rupi Kaur, making use of the instant access to millions of people hungry for mental stimulation and emotional fulfillment. So it’s not all bad.

How might poetry enrich your life?

Maybe you’re on a health kick and are looking to try a more holistic approach. You might have just been through a bad break up and need the space to allow yourself to really feel it. Or perhaps you need some inspiration, or motivation.

Whatever the reason, let poetry be your next step on the way to wellness.

We’ve picked some of our favorite poets, past and present, for you to delve into. At your leisure.

Nayyirah Waheed

poem. from salt. by nayyirah waheed. #salt #nejma #literature #nayyirahwaheed

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Poetry best for healing.

Waheed is a poet based in the U.S who started writing from 11 years old. Her work manages to maintain a soft element in spite of its rawness, and will speak to parts of you that you didn’t realize were still there.

Find her works here or follow her on Instagram.

W. H. Auden

Best for learning to see beauty in the everyday.

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me”

This is one of Auden’s most famous phrases and certainly captures the gentleness that runs through much of his verse.

In his poem, ‘Heavy Date’, he writes beautifully of the love you can feel for an object:

Love requires an Object,
But this varies so much,
Almost, I imagine,
Anything will do:
When I was a child, I
Loved a pumping-engine,
Thought it every bit as
Beautiful as you.

But don’t mistake Auden’s humility for docility. He also wrote powerfully on resistance and power.

W. H. Auden, "September 1, 1939" #resistance #affirmation

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Auden was born in York, England, in 1907 and later went on to become an American citizen. Find out more about him here.

Maya Angelou

Best for remembering that there are some truly kick-ass people in the world.

Words really can’t do justice to this phenomenal woman. Not ours anyway.

Angelou passed away in 2014, but her legacy of fighting racism and discrimination through wit, action, and of course, words lives on. You can stream ‘Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise’ on BBC One to learn more about her life.

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