How poetry can stimulate creativity?

1c48070

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.

– Robert Frost

Some interesting results of recent researches, like at the University of Liverpool  – scientists have found that reading poetry and prose can actually stimulate our thinking and creative cognitive abilities much more than for example self-help books, which are nowadays popular way of finding solutions when we are in some sort of crisis or challenging situation. It turns out the more complicated poetry and prose were, the reader’s attention time span was longer and deeper, and it also stimulated their moments of self-reflection.

brain-poetry

Researches in the aforementioned research used a group of volunteers, where with scanners, they have monitored the brain activity as the volunteers read works by William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, T.S Eliot and others.

After the reading, the volunteers were asked to “retell” the texts using their own words. Scans showed that the more “challenging” prose and poetry set off far more electrical activity: especially the activity in the right hemisphere of the brain, an area concerned with “autobiographical memory” and emotion, helping the reader to reflect on and reappraise their own experiences in light of what they have read.

Poetry is not just a matter of style. It is a matter of deep versions of experience that add the emotional and biographical to the cognitive.

-Proff. Davis from Liverpool University

Some earlier scholar works also attribute poetry to development of cognitive, learning and memory skills. In particular, McGovern and Hogshead in their paper “Learning about writing, thinking about teaching”, describe how poetry can promote writing skills, learning, fosters analytic and creative thinking and problem solving.

Csikszentmihalyi in his paper “Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention”, published in 1996, proves that discussing a poem is an exercise in problem finding, a skill essential to creative work in both the arts and the sciences.

Halonen in his paper “Demystifying critical thinking”, (1995) states that poetry often contains unconventional language or unusual treatment of a topic. Surprise becomes a catalyst for critical thinking as the audience works to resolve subsequent feelings of disequilibrium.

So, when I feel stuck, uninspired I just play with words, rearrange them or observe the environment and describe it in more lyrical way. I have noticed that my attention and emotion shifts – it’s like working on the puzzle: thoughts of possibilities are coming – poetry simply jump-starts our brain’s synapses.

Next time when you need a creativity spark, try to write a poem. Something different, something that you are not accustomed to. In this case there is no bad or good poetry. The aim is to start moving creative juices in our minds and poetry is a great tool for that. Even science agrees 🙂

Achievements by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Trust in thine own untried capacity
As thou wouldst trust in God Himself. Thy soul
Is but an emanation from the whole.
Thou dost not dream what forces lie in thee,
Vast and unfathomed as the grandest sea.
Thy silent mind o’er diamond caves may roll,
Go seek them – but let pilot will control
Those passions which thy favouring winds can be.

No man shall place a limit in thy strength;
Such triumphs as no mortal ever gained
May yet be thine if thou wilt but believe
In thy Creator and thyself. At length
Some feet will tread all heights now unattained —
Why not thine own? Press on; achieve! achieve!

12 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. “Even science agrees”! Thank you for this inspiring post, I personally like to read poetry in search of lyrical words and emotional atmosphere to recreate. This is an excellent initiative and I wanted to support you in writing this blog. I have mentioned your article on my blog, too: http://weareinnovation.org/2015/07/30/storytelling-shapes-the-way-we-speak-innovation/
    Innovation practitioners talk a lot about words and emotions, there is a business future in making the most of them and analyzing how they work together. Also, you could be interested in my post on scientific poetry: http://weareinnovation.org/2014/12/06/scientific-poetry-the-science-of-emotions/
    Hope you enjoy it, I’d be happy to have a feedback from you. Johanna Camp.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your comment. I apologize for my late response, since this comment was accidentally (by wordpress) placed in the spam folder.
      I’m glad you find value in reading poetry and I’m looking forward to reading some of your future articles. And thanks for your kind support 🙂

      Like

  2. The trouble with “self-help” books is that they are rarely that at all, but someone else trying to help you with their solution. You can waste a lot of energy trying to shoehorn yourself into someone else’s vision. Poetry and prose instead inspire you to create your own way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you know how valuable you are? I write a Dear Frances advice column for caregivers in the Hawaii Herald and also travel the U.S. to help caregivers of Alzheimer’s loved ones write poetry. Result: becoming a poet/caregiver makes all the difference from caregiving being a burden to caregiving becoming a gift of humanity. I have used some of your quotations in my column and will share this post with my support group. This is one poem from my last session, written by a male caregiver:

    I began to write

    I began to write because I was angry.
    I began to write because I was hurt.
    I began to write because I needed to vent.
    I began to write because Fran could not.
    But along the way an epiphany.
    I fell in love, I fell in love with words.
    I find joy in finding the right word and
    Like a jigsaw puzzle only one word will fit.
    I love the richness and simplicity of the right word.
    It has elegance and beauty in its own right.
    I love the harmony of words together
    With meaning greater than the sum of its parts.
    I see stories unfolding to make you weep.
    To laugh and move you to action.
    This is the power of words.

    Bob Oyafuso

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Franceska for your kind words – I’m really honored and humbled in the same time by your comment. The only thing I can say that if we touch only one soul with our writing and help them find their own voice, it’s a huge accomplishment. I cannot describe how glad I am that my work here is helping you and other people – it makes it all worth. And the poem you posted just proves how words and poetry are powerful. Thank you for sharing with us 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Maja, as a result of your post, three caregivers and I have formed a Poets Alive group and we meet once a month and read and discuss poems by both current and past poets. We did Emily Dickinson, Wordsworth, current Kay Ryan and next month’s poet will be Sylvia Plath.We do both bio and poetry. We select our favorite poems, make copies for all and talk poetry.

    I also facilitate a memoir writing group and a 90 year old woman, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s some months ago continue to hand-write and she commented: I am losing my memory and it concerns me but when I sit and write, I feel at ease and all my anxieties go away. With her loss of memory, her writings are not memoirs, she gives advice.We made a deal that she will continue to sit with us even after she’s unable to write.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s