I'm doing a paper on poetry and its effect on people's emotions. I was just wondering what you all thought about it.
Thanks if you reply, I really appreciate it!!!
The following site has some lovely examples of the spiritual, healing aspects of poetry.
Robert MacNeil says that poetry gives us a "lens" for perceiving our own emotions and a language for thinking and talking about them. Here's a passage from his second autobiography. (His first autobiography was all about being a newsman. The second is all about being a reader.)
By Robert MacNeil
Nothing makes a poem yours, and so prepares you to absorb it seriously, as commiting it to memory. Then you can live with the lines intimately, saying those you wish to dwell on to yourself again and again. As you do so, all the subtler poetic devices reveal themselves: the deeper music, and the less obvious layers of meaning. If you memorize a poem—even coldly, without enthusiasm—the chances are your regard for it will grow. Something learned that well—“learning by heart” is a good expression, “taken to heart”—becomes part of your mind’s ear, another part of the mechanism that lets you weigh words.
In the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, the mother of all the muses who governed creativity was the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne. Obviously, they thought that if you can’t remember, you can’t create.
Take the famous “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray. I had to memorize about four stanzas when I was 13 or 14. The well-worn phrases have come into my head hundreds of times over the years:
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
. . . .
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
Interesting things happen when you own a poem like that. It evolves with you as you gain more experience, like a strongly tannic wine gradually oxidizing. However obvious, the felicity of expression mingles with your later experiences, which resonate with the aptness of the poet’s vision.
The horror-dulled 20th-century spirit may thirst for musings more existential than
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
But what modern poet could condescend to a line like
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds
A learned poem becomes a lens through which you see the world, like the different lenses an oculist drops one at a time when testing your vision. A lens for all the senses—a lens for the soul’s eyes. The over-familiar, the too brightly painted, the too-innocent phrase, may become an ironic lens, an antique/antic focus on today’s reality. It may become part of your personal cliché-avoidance system, the bat-like verbal radar, operating semi-consciously, that keeps you from blundering into the obvious and overused (unless you mean it facetiously).
For me, (my) poetry is a direct result of my emotion(s).
Reading poetry can be a sort of Rorschach Test -- what you get out of it depends on what you bring to it.
And/or it can be an intensifier. If you're depressed it can bring you downer, if you're happy it can lift you higher, if you're in love it can make you insufferable.
I don't think poetry (reading it or writing it) has ever CHANGED my mood from one to another.
I agree with Marion about the changing of a mood....but I have also found that not only poetry, but also music, when I am sad for example, listening to sad music, reading sad poetry "fills in the blanks", or adds some meaning to my emotions...especially when there is little explanation.
Talia, your post reminds me of the time my then 4-year-old nephew was unable to stop crying for Mommy when she went out for the evening. He's devoted to WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, so I started reading it and he choked back his sobs to listen (for the 100th time!) to the story.
And when I got to the page where Max "wanted to be where someone loved him best of all," my nephew let loose a torrent of exegesis: "Yes! Well, of course he wanted to be with his Mommy, because he was lonely, so he wanted to go home because he was lonely and he wanted to be with his Mommy..." (and so forth).
NEVER BEFORE had that page excited him so much. Previously, he had carried on about the Wild Rumpus and the picture "BY MAX" on the wall of his house, the the kind of boat he road to the land of the wild things. But he had never seemed to notice Max's attack of homesickness.
Interesting - I beg to differ about the changing of a mood - poetry or music can change my mood very effectively ( soundtrack from Midnight cowboy will always relax me, reading Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker or Edward Lear will always lift me up and I dare only read some war poetry if I'm reasonably happy to begin with (some I daren't read at all). However, it only works if I'm not so deep in a mood that I can't make it to the bookshelf.
Yes to all of the above.
When I read WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE to Ben, the reading itself definitely changed his mood. However, he also brought his emotional problem (wanting Mommy) to the reading, which is why he focused so intensely on the page he'd never talked about before.
And yes, once you get "so deep in a mood that [you] can't make it to the bookshelf," at that point a poem or a piece of music that conflicts with your mood may seem idiotic to you, or even offensive.
Yes...as the bible says, we must weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Talia, I never thought of that passage that way - excellent!
Yes it does, especially when the experience the writer is attempting to convey gets accurately transmitted to the audience.
Since most poetry is inspired by an emotional experience (as opposed to the collection of information), the goal of writing it is to get the reader to feel what you felt or see what you saw etc.
This puts the hearer in the writer's shoes.
"I "Love Summer more than I hate Winter"