As I may have mentioned here once or twice before, I like to begin each day with a little poetry. There’s the obvious benefit—the joy one experiences when one is exposed to art—but there’s also a practical reason: I’m (nominally) a writer. And poetry, it seems to me, is the highest expression of that dubious title.
“Language begins with the letter,” explains Helen Vendler in The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar, “progresses to the word, advances to the sentence, and ends in the stanza.” Or, as Proust famously said, “The tyranny of rhyme forces the poet to the discovery of his finest lines.”
In other words, poetry is hard.
But there’s more to rhythm and rhyme than training to become a better writer. Turns out it’s good for your health. Specifically, “poetic, musical, and other nonpharmacologic adjuvant therapies can reduce pain and the use and dosage of opioids.” There’s more:
One randomized clinical trial by researchers at the University of Maranhão studied the effect of passive listening to music or poetry on the pain, depression, and hope scores of 65 adult patients hospitalized in a cancer facility. They found that both types of art therapy produced similar improvements in pain intensity and depression scores. Only poetry, however, increased hope scores.
So. The next time you’re feeling a little under the weather, try dusting off your Wordsworth.