Poetry: Well-Being, Mental Stimulation & Connection

Some recent studies have suggested that poetry can improve well-being and benefit our memories. “When a person reads or listens to poetry, MRIs have shown that certain regions in the brain’s right hemisphere that are linked to reward and emotion light up” after being activated. Results from other MRI studies have revealed that poetry can help support our memory.

As reported in a 2007 Issues in Mental Health Nursing journal from the University of Tennessee, writing poetry as a form of creativity can be particularly beneficial as we age. Based on a study involving older adults, findings suggested that writing poetry can provide “a positive sense of accomplishment” and “a feeling of connectedness with others” who also wrote and shared their poems.  In addition to positive subjective outcomes, research also has suggested that creative activities like writing poetry can help stabilize “blood flow, heart rate, and hormone levels.” Such creative activities can also “stimulate the release of endorphins” that can improve the function of our immune system and positively affect some brain cells.

A Poet’s Journey and Advice

Nancy Nowak began writing poetry in the 4th grade. When she was in college, she discovered the poetry of Anne Sexton. “Her voice and the choices she made in her work moved me and showed me a way to write honestly as a woman. I’ve been reading, studying, writing, and publishing poetry ever since.”

Nowak’s advice to others who want to explore writing poetry is to get started and to discover tools that work for them. She suggests getting started by reading the works of contemporary poets. She recommends visiting websites for the Poetry Foundation or the Academy of American Poets. It is her hope that others will “think of writing poetry not primarily as a way to express their emotions but as a path taken to engage with others and the world through the words they have chosen.”

Nancy was moved to write the following poem because “of the way people often talk about an invasive species intended to conquer an environment rather than try to adjust to wherever humans had introduced it.”


By Nancy Nowak

This flock, nebula

interweaving above

dry grass along the interstate

lands to greet, open-billed, its

minute of earth, descendant

of Hotspur’s threat to Henry the king:

I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak

…to keep his anger in motion


and the 1890 crate of Europeans

released in Central Park, Manhattan

to illustrate a prosperous German

immigrant’s love of Shakespeare.

Emigrating south or over the plains

and Rockies, scores of birds

in resolute parties accumulated into

thousands succeeding

native species or else

with no dispute

living among them. Despised. Yet

if this were the last field of them, how

lonely, how ivory

our praise would be for lustrous

black feathers, sunlit green and violet

flecked in winter

with white, sprung

yellow bills, the sometimes chatter, purr

or scream, voices at times mimicking

hawk, sparrow

accusingly, our song.


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