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Poetry in the Brain

In an earlier article, I made a comparison between poetry and abstract art . Both art and poetry are guided by the emotional experiences of the creator. This emotional experience begins in the right hemisphere of the brain.

Your brain has two completely separate functioning hemispheres. The right hemisphere is responsible for recognizing beauty, dreaming, emotion, and looking at experiences as a whole. Your left hemisphere is the logical portion of your brain. It is logical and intellectual. It is also the area of the brain that formulates words. While the right brain looks at the whole, the left brain is responsible for recognition of details. In other words, our right brain creates our dreams and the emotions that accompany those dreams, while the left brain develops the words to describe these dreams in a logical and sequential format.

It is said that the right hemisphere is responsible for creativity, music, art, and the emotional experiences that surround them. Poetry is unique in the fact that it is all of the above, with words. Therefore, the brain must use both hemispheres in order to create, read, and enjoy it. For example, as a poet, I may look at a sunset and immediately my right brain leads me to be enthralled in its beauty. As the feeling grows inside, my left brain begins to develop details and words in a limited attempt to capture the emotions that I begin to feel in the presence of such beauty. The two sides must mesh with one another in order to capture a perfect picture in words. One could say the tone, cadence, and inspirations for a poem start in the right hemisphere, while the left hemisphere provides the language needed to describe the experience. Just the same, when I am reading a poem, my left hemisphere begins deciphering the words, meanings, and intent, while my right hemisphere is hard at work to experience the emotions and rhythm that are captured with the words.

We can typically identify individuals that are predominately left brained or right brained. A person that is predominately left brained is the one who is detail oriented and driven by facts. They may be logical in nature and data driven. Reading and appreciating the aesthetics of poetry is difficult for this individual. A predominately right brained individual is that person who tends to be driven by emotions. They are into aesthetics (beauty) and use analogies and they gravitate toward the arts.

There is no shortage of information on right vs. left brained thinking. One thing that can be agreed on is that one can develop the ability to shift their thinking from one hemisphere to the other with exercises or activities that lead to right brained thinking. Some of the exercises are those that cross from one side to the other, looking at specific pictures such as the faces and vases link below, or taking classes such as “brain gym”. Another activity could be looking at artwork and connecting it to an emotion or experience.

I found an interesting art website that did just that. They asked poets to look at unique pieces of artwork and develop a story and poem created specifically for that piece of art. Personally, I have difficulty appreciating art. The artwork itself did not invoke much feeling within me, until I read the poem. The work of art took on a completely different meaning that I was able to attach to an emotion. I was inspired and began to look at more works of art in a whole new way. What stories did it speak of? What poem could each inspire? I had experienced the union of the left and right hemispheres.

An “aha” moment for any aspiring poet. Try it yourself! You can experience the poetry of art by going to Tate Etc.'s poem of the month link.




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