Why Poetry is Good for Your Brain…


Poetry reaches us in special ways. Neuroscience shows that it is processed by the brain differently than normal language. It’s processed a lot more like music…but not exactly like music. Surprisingly, poetry has the ability to stimulate all three of the major brain networks.

The double meanings, irony, innuendo, rhythmic verse and symbolism are just some of the things that make poetry special to us. Our brain’s pleasure centers anticipate a poem’s rhythm and rhyme as well as how it resolves its premise (not that all poems resolve a premise, but many do).

Our Imagination Network is active when reading and writing poetry, as poetry taps into our intuition and daydreaming processes. But the metaphors and playful language in poetry can stimulate our cognitive center (the Executive Network). In fact, studies show that poetry enhances our cognitive abilities.

Reading poetry that moves us can trigger all kinds of emotions and introspective reactions, thus stimulating our Salience Network. Music also does this. But poetry also challenges us to make connections among different words and concepts that lights up the Wisdom Centers of the brain.

Poetry can surprise us, affirm our deepest perceptions, comfort us and disturb us. It goes directly to our emotional center, where it plays with our feelings, our sense of nostalgia and our ways of perceiving the world.

Creating poetry is equally as powerful as reading it — even if you don’t consider yourself a poet. Just thinking in symbols, double meanings and irony stimulates us on a deep level and is shown to increase our sense of happiness.

Try writing a poem today. It can be free-verse or rhyming. It can follow a structure, like a haiku or a sonnet, or it can just be a combination of thoughts — like modern spoken word art. Let your feelings guide the essence of it…and choose words that are loaded with double meanings. Write about something you are angry about or something you are longing for…or whatever moves you.

And always, enjoy the process!


by Nickole Brown


No More Than This

Provincetown, Massachusetts


Today, home is a cottage with morning

in the yawn of an open window. I watch

the crescent moon, like a wind-blown sail,

vanish. Blue slowly fills the sky and light

regains the trust of wildflowers blooming

with fresh spider webs spun stem to stem.

The room rises with the toasting of bread,

a stick of butter puddling in a dish, a knife

at rest, burgundy apples ready to be halved,

a pint of blueberries bleeding on the counter,

and little more than this. A nail in the wall

with a pair of disembodied jeans, a red jersey,

and shoes embossed by the bones of my feet

and years of walking. I sit down to breakfast

over the nicks of a pinewood table and I am,

for a moment, not afraid of being no more

than what I hear and see, no more than this:

the echo of bird songs filling an empty vase,

the shadow of a sparrow moving through

the shadow of a tree, disturbing nothing.


–Richard Blanco


“Instructions on Not Giving Up”


More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out

of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s

almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving

their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate

sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees

that really gets to me. When all the shock of white

and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave

the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,

the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin

growing over whatever winter did to us, a return

to the strange idea of continuous living despite

the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,

I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf

unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.


–Ada Limon



ASSIGNMENT:  Avoid hyperbole but include nature in an upbeat but non-sentimental poem.