When was the last time someone read you poetry? Maybe you remember a fellow student stumbling over Shakespeare, or a stern teacher belting out “Charge of the Light Brigade.” That’s not what I’m talking about.
This morning Garrison Keillor read me a poem. I have The Writer’s Almanac open on my desktop and I clicked “Listen” before I began anything else. There were a few tidbits about writer Thomas Hardy (Happy Birthday, Thomas Hardy! It’s my birthday, too!) and the Salem Witch Trials, and then Garrison Keillor read today’s poem. For the 5 minutes of the podcast, it’s easy to be more toward the realm of sleep than the realm of awake.
Neuroscientists have studied brain activity when reading poetry. They found that the brain behaves differently when listening to poetry than when listening to prose. The research shows that poetry activates the parts of the brain associated with turning inward and attending to ourselves. One researcher commented on MRI studies of the brain experiencing poetry: “…it is all part of work that is helping us to make psychological, biological, anatomical sense of art.”
My experience is that poetry changes my state quickly, and in a very nice way, especially if I don’t have to get all cognitive and read the words myself. It’s a place most of us don’t spend enough time after we are adults. So poetry – like Feldenkrais lessons, like the space between sleeping and waking – offers a place to be ourselves in a different and very pleasant way. What we learn while in that place – that’s a blog for another day.