On Poetry and Health

I admit that there are plenty of days when I wonder why I and others spend so much time writing poetry — especially when much of the world — even the reading world — seems fairly indifferent.

And then I read an article titled “How Doctors Use Poetry” which includes the following:

“Researchers have demonstrated with functional magnetic resonance imaging that reciting poetry engages the primary reward circuitry in the brain, called the mesolimbic pathway. So does music — but, the researchers found, poetry elicited a unique response. While the mechanism is unclear, it’s been suggested that poetic, musical, and other nonpharmacologic adjuvant therapies can reduce pain and the use and dosage of opioids.”

Of course, it’s fine to just let poetry be poetry, too. I’ve been reading Mary Ruefle’s Tristimania, enjoying just about every poem, even when I can’t tell you what I think they all mean. Sometimes, just the beautiful reaching of her poetry is enough.

From her “Autumn Poem”:

The clouds tell everybody

It’s time to cave in

Cave in

Get all the barley you can

It will be a long time

Before anything speaks again…

From “Analysis of a Rose as Sentimental as Despair”:

What are the lives of roses but dreams

if they take no one into their folds?