How poetry can stimulate creativity?


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.


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!