How Poetry Brightens the Brain and Improves Your Memory

There are so many different kinds of poetry: some rhyme, some are short; some take time, some help court.

If you just look for it, there is a lot of really good poetry out there, and there is a large variety of it.  With a little something for everyone, it’s pretty easy to find some poetry that will be a good fit for you.

But what’s the point?  You can sit and read just about any kind of book or story you want.  What’s the difference with poetry?

What is it?

A bunch of words put together to make rhythm?  Maybe.  But it’s not always structured the same way with the same language structure,

Put simply, “poetry is a type of literature, or artistic writing, that attempts to stir a reader’s imagination or emotions.  The poet does this by carefully choosing and arranging language for its meaning, sound, and rhythm” (Britannica).

Poetry can be in stories, love notes, speeches, songs, greeting cards; it’s virtually everywhere.  It helps us understand our emotions in a unique way that we may not be able to easily do otherwise.  It helps us feel words in a very deep part of ourselves.

Why is it good for your brain?

Studies have been done on poetry to determine how it affects the brain and whether it’s different than listening to music or watching films.  One study found that heart rate increased when individuals listened to poetry compared to other mediums, and they slowly built up goosebumps as they listened.

Other studies have shown that the right-brain benefits from reading poetry and allows the listener or reader to be more open to new perspectives, and it’s even been shown that our brains are actually hardwired for poetry and can recognize poetic harmony without any training or experience.

  1. Poetry triggers an emotional response like music. When a person reads or listens to poetry, MRIs have shown that the certain regions in the brain’s right hemisphere that are linked to reward and emotion light up from being activated.
  2. Poetry makes us smarter overall. Poetry isn’t just about reading words, but it’s also about understanding the sounds, meanings, and emotions of them.  When the brain has to put all these things together at once, the brain’s function peaks and strengthens overall cognitive health.
  3. Poetry boosts memory and encourages self-reflection. Studies have done MRIs that show that poetry causes the part of the brain that activates during daydreaming to light up while reading or listening to poetry.  Poetry often sticks with the reader, causing them to re-read and even memorize the words.  Poetic words tend to be easier to memorize than non-poetic ones, and it can help improve a person’s memory and make it more receptive to remembering other information as well!

How can you get more poetry in your life?

There’s poetry everywhere, and some people read or listen to it every day, while others haven’t uttered a single word of it since their high school Emily Dickinson class.

Aside from listening to music or reading greeting cards, there are plenty of ways to add a little poetry into your everyday life.

  • Book of poems (try reading it aloud for extra brain engagement)
  • Buy a poem-a-day calendar and look at it every single day
  • Sign up for a poem-a-day email, such as Poetry Foundation’s
  • Try writing your own! Remember, all poetry is different, and yours can be whatever you want it to be!  No pressure to do anything but feel and write the words.

Whichever way that you choose to get poetry, let it take over your brain and be the most beneficial it can be for you each and every time you read it or listen to it!




By Author, David Ben Foster

Enough light

flickering tiny flashes in a darkening world

minding its own existence

but acting as though it struggles to remain aloft

in a vast space of predators

with social instincts aglow in a habitat

vulnerable to various deaths:

caught in beaks or mouths, or

safely placed in a jar to shine unsteadily to dust.


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