Commentary: Reading, writing poetry can help improve mental health – United States Army

FORT KNOX, Ky. “There lurks in man’s heart a raging beast, within each mind a raptor’s nest. When winds breathe, creature flees the savage feast, winged captor flies to its rest …”

Fort Knox News editor discusses the mental health benefits of writing poetry
Reading poetry has been dwindling in usefulness and enjoyment over the years, but medical officials say there are some very real health benefits to not only reading poetry but also penning poems. (Photo Credit: April G. Pilgrim, Courtesy image) VIEW ORIGINAL

I’ve been writing poems for about as long because I can remember; in truth, I can’t even remember how long.

My mother died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1996; my father died inside 2005 from multiple urinary tract infections. Right after my father’s passing, my sister and I gathered in our childhood home and started the process of sorting through old cardboard boxes tucked away in our parents’ closet. That’s when We rediscovered just how long I had been composing poetry.

Within a box were several homemade cards to the mom with poems written by a much younger me. I just know they were from me personally because I had written our name within crayon on many of them; the words didn’t look familiar.

Judging by the poor penmanship plus use of crayon, I figured that my age had to have been in the particular single digits, maybe closer to 5 than 9. As I actually read each one, I was surprised at how okay the poems were: the choice of words, the rhythm, especially knowing they came from the thoughts of a child. I briefly got swept up in the moment.

Sometimes poetry does that to myself, especially when created by the masters. I don’t understand why it doesn’t do that for everyone.

What is it about this one form of art that makes so many people cringe, mock or sidestep it in favor of virtually every other form associated with art. Music draws huge crowds; paintings and drawings in any format fascinate people; theater, movies and television shows are almost always the talk of an office or classroom. But start to recite poetry, and — *cue crickets* …

Yet there are still those throughout history who have sworn by the medium’s power.

Pastors often recite poems in sermons. Ancient times were replete with it.

Poets moved nations to noble action or even to sinful inaction. They soothed the particular minds plus captivated the hearts of kings. The Bible, for instance, devotes at least five books to poetry that Christians and Jews often turn to today with regard to comfort and advice: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song associated with Solomon plus Ecclesiastes. Poems are also woven into several other books of the Bible.

English professors consider poems a worthy study, a nobler artwork. Some of the greatest poets of England during the kingdom’s long golden age of literature are still celebrated by many scholars today: Chaucer, Milton, Bunyan, Woodsworth and Shakespeare to name a few.

So, the reason why do so many give poetry the particular cold shoulder today? That question comes up every April during National Poetry Month. But since April is half a year away and today is National Poems Day, I decided to explore that question now.

Poets and poetry enthusiasts who are in-the-know that the question of poetry’s demise continues to be a hotly debated subject. Every year. For years. And years.

In April 2015, the Washington Post grabbed readers’ attention to the subject with the commentary called Poetry will be going extinct, government data show: “Most of the discussion around the query involves qualitative assessments that are inherently unsolvable, ” admitted the author. “Is poems too political, or not politics enough? Is it too popular, or too elitist? Too pretentious or as well profane? ”

Though the particular author actually avoided answering those questions, he did instead highlight statistical facts about poetry: for instance, fewer people were reading poetry than ever before — down to 6. 7% in 2012 from 17% in 1992; it was less popular than jazz, dance and even knitting — only more popular compared to going to the opera; and searches for poems continued in order to “fall precipitously. ”

If a similar study had already been done today, it would probably still reflect that same downward trend and dire forecast.

At least some of the problem has to do with perceptions. Let’s face this, poetry tends to be considered either intellectual snobbery or sophomoric drivel: a dark cloud that the art does not seem to possess the prowess, backing or even interest to remove.

Fast-forward to 2021, in comes what I consider the noble stab at reviving the art. Or maybe simply an attempt in dusting off poetry’s original intent.

Within a Psychology Today article titled, “The Power of Poetry Therapy, ” the particular authors declared, “both the reading plus writing associated with poetry can be therapeutic, because whether we’re reading or writing poems, they help us engage our senses and our own feelings. This provides a good merging of poetry and psychology. ”

Sounds like some good Army training inside mental plus spiritual resilience to me.

We would argue that they are absolutely correct in their assessment. My first taste associated with self-therapy began after the second 12 months of college. I actually had been struggling with a lot of emotions that will I experienced masterfully shelved during our junior high and high school years: emotions that lurked in the backroom associated with my brain, affecting my studies, relationships, general wellbeing and self-esteem.

A very stressful summer trip to Poland after the sophomore yr of school managed to unlock that vault, a space I didn’t even know existed until then. In first, I didn’t know what was going wrong with me; I was spiraling out of control — bad decisions, bad grades, bad outlook. All We knew was that I suddenly felt like I had been drowning in endless ocean waves of sorrow.

During that summer time trip, the friend got introduced me to his poetry journal and a few from the poetry he had composed to help him capture and then release his angst. I acquired realized, “Hey, I could do this, too. ”

So , when I actually turned our pen in order to my first journal, emotions spread like a raging fire across page after web page. It was as if a huge dam had broken inside my mind and all my feelings flooded out. I began filling notebook after laptop for the particular next four years or even so.

Then one day, just such as that, the river’s flow stopped.

From that moment on regarding several more years, I felt a sense of peace plus an ability to turn the attention to whatever future path We were on, which turned into 22 many years in the particular Army.

The particular authors describe poetry therapy as “ a form of expression in the same way that will art therapy is. It involves the therapeutic use associated with narrative poems to promote the sense of healing and well-being. ” They also credit the Egyptians in 400 BCE along with being the first in order to use poetry for that really reason: to combat internal ills, which in turn can combat external ills.

In the spirit of National Poetry Day, celebrated from poets. org | Academy of American Poets , here are some suggestions for penning your own lines associated with rhythm plus rhyme. Some of this can be found within the Mindset Today post, some through Army health officials’ advice:

·                Keep a journal, and jot down any prevailing thoughts or emotions as they surface

·                Make note of terms that “sing” to you, especially because they pertain to your situation

·                Tell stories with the ideas you have captured

·                Paint the detailed picture with phrases that helps others see what you’re writing about

·                Read your poetry out loud, even if just to yourself; notice how different they sound when spoken

·                If you have little ones, encourage them to furthermore write

·                Write for a person, not intended for others’ approval or praise of you

·                Finally, join a site like All Poetry . There, you can write your own poems for free, read others’ works, comment on all of them, join contests and groups, get helpful advice, as well as publish your works. Or you can join one or more groups upon Facebook who celebrate poetry by sharing their initial works plus reading others’ works.

Psychiatric Times , in a June 15, 2021 content titled Poetry for PTSD and Preventing Suicide , talked with a psychiatrist that wrote a book about the particular utilization of poems to combat PTSD. In that interview, author Norman Rosenthal said, “… the intrusive memories of PTSD are frequently treated by encouraging those who suffer to actively think about their traumatic memories in ways that decondition their painful responses. ”

Poems still have got the power in order to address society’s ills and our own life struggles in ways that will other mediums can’t. These people can promote laughter plus joy and give us a path beyond personal barriers, allowing us to slay our demons.

Poetry goes a long way toward soothing the particular savage beast that resides in us all.

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