Nancy Weinbeck
Nancy Weinbeck

April is National Poetry Month, which gives us a chance to step back, slow down, and appreciate the artistry of language as manifested in a poem. More than just enjoyment, reading, memorizing and reciting poetry is good for older brains, too!

Poetry is a creative enterprise, and creativity is a result of the intertwining of cognitive process. Art, music and poetry show similar patterns of brain activity.

We’ve known for a while that music offers therapeutic value to individuals suffering from cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Research is showing that poetry has similar effects, increasing connections through various neural networks and enhancing compromised cognitive processing. This strengthens our overall cognitive health.

Research is also demonstrating that the act of writing poems, and also listening, memorizing and reciting poems, can enhance brain plasticity in all brains, including older brains. In addition, it can improve our overall sense of well-being.

Brain imaging has shown that areas of the brain linked to reward and emotion are activated by poetry.

Reading and/or writing poetry has been shown to stimulate the flow of endorphins that can not only help us feel better emotionally but may also improve our immune system.

We have had several wonderful poets at Bayview over the years, and one, who sadly is no longer with us, shared a lovely poem about the coming of spring, which is framed and hanging in my office where I glance at it daily. Here are the last two stanzas of the poem:

“Sugar maples wake to serve another spring

That obliges them to do nature’s bidding.

They respond by sending their sap, tho’ brief

Aloft from roots to trunk, to branch, to leave.

“The maple’s sweetness lying deep within its well

Rises to challenge the gloom of winter’s spell.”

 

Thank you to Bill Jordan and all of our amazing poets who brighten our days and strengthen not only our minds but our souls.

 

— Nancy Weinbeck is the CEO of Bayview in Queen Anne