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The Benefits From Reading Poems


Poetry is one of mankind’s oldest art forms and defines much of what we consider Western culture. The arts make up a culture's identity as much as its historical events and political policies. Since first analyzed by Aristotle, poetry has been part of every major art movement, and some say it captures emotion better than any other form. Reading poetry is necessary to gain a full understanding of the world and has many additional benefits.

Improves Verbal Skills and Memory
A study done by the Poetry Foundation shows that reading poetry improves brain health as people age.

The immediate benefits of reading poetry are improvements to vocabulary and verbal dexterity. Poetry acquaints the reader with unfamiliar terms and encourages verbal analysis. Most poems should not be read in the straightforward manner of prose. The reader must place his own emphasis upon keywords and decode syntax without obvious structure. This encourages readers to grapple with language, and presents reading as a creative act in its own right. The common practice of memorizing poems also improves long-term brain health. Studies have shown that people who memorize and recall poems are less susceptible to Alzheimer’s.

Improves Critical Thinking
The critical thinking skills gained from poetry are helpful for standardized test takers.

Poetry improves critical thinking by forcing a reader to think. In great poetry, meaning is not obvious or one-dimensional. Deciphering poetry is an active practice, rather than the passive engagement encouraged with prose. Readers of poetry are more likely than non-readers to analyze information for bias and viewpoint. This skill benefits students, but also anyone who wants to form their own opinions of news items or gain a better perspective upon documents like contracts. As the currency of social interaction, language shapes an individual’s experience of the world. The critical thinking skills developed through reading poetry give greater control over language itself.

Develops Empathy and Insight
Reading poetry unites people across the barriers of time and geography.

The most remarkable power of literature is its ability to unite reader and writer across time and cultural boundaries. As condensed literature, poetry offers these benefits in an impactful way. Poetry triggers memories and emotions in its readers. This connection between universal emotions and personal experience encourages the development of empathy. A reader might have no practical conception of what life was like during the Elizabethan-era in England. However, Shakespeare’s "Sonnets," with their universal themes of love and longing, can bridge the gap of centuries and inject a whiff of the 17th century into the modern day.

Encourages Engagement with Other Art Forms
Many art movements, like Cubism, Futurism and Pop Art, were also expressed in poetry.

Poetry is an excellent introduction to the arts. Poems typically don't require a lot of time to read, nor are they difficult to find free online. Once someone feels comfortable with poetry, they are more likely to engage with other arts. The appreciation of any art requires the same critical thinking skills and emotional awareness. Poetry has often been entwined with general artistic movements. For example, Picasso explored Cubism in the visual arts, while Apollinaire did so with poetry. As a portal to a wide world of experience, poetry offers great treasures for personal growth.

About the Author

Douglas Matus is the travel writer for "West Fort Worth Lifestyle" magazine, and spent four years as the Director of Humanities for a college-prep school in Austin. Since 2005, he has published articles on education, travel and culture in such publications as "Nexus," "People's World" and "USA Today." Matus received an Education Pioneers fellowship in 2010 and an MFA from CalArts in 2011.

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