April 15, 2021

The Power of Poetry

Category: Community

Author: Bayview

Written by Nancy Weinbeck, Bayview CEO

April is National Poetry Month, which gives us a chance to step back, slow down, and appreciate the artistry of language as manifested in a poem. More than just enjoyment, reading, memorizing, and reciting poetry is good for older brains too!

Poetry is a creative enterprise, and creativity is a result of the intertwining of cognitive process. Art, music, and poetry show similar patterns of brain activity. We’ve known for awhile that music offers therapeutic value to individuals suffering from cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Research is showing that poetry has similar effects, increasing connections through various neural networks and enhancing compromised cognitive processing. This strengthens our overall cognitive health.

Research is also demonstrating that the act of writing poems, and also listening, memorizing, and reciting poems, can enhance brain plasticity in all brains, including older brains. In addition, it can improve our overall sense of well-being. Brain imaging has shown that areas of the brain linked to reward and emotion are activated by poetry. Reading and/or writing poetry has been shown to stimulate the flow of endorphins that can not only help us feel better emotionally, and may also improve our immune system.

We have had several wonderful poets at Bayview over the years, and one, who recently passed away, shared a lovely poem about the coming of spring, which is framed and hanging in my office where I glance at it daily. Here are the last two stanzas of the poem:

Sugar maples wake to serve another spring
That obliges them to do nature’s bidding.
They respond by sending their sap, tho’ brief
Aloft from roots to trunk, to branch, to leave.

The maple’s sweetness lying deep within its well
Rises to challenge the gloom of winter’s spell.

I leave you with my own less refined poem (I couldn’t resist):

Roses are red, violets are blue, poetry strengthens the aging brain too. Happy Spring!

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