Why Poetry?

Poetry improves the mind.

You may think your smartest minds are the smartest they could be. You’d be wrong. Do they produce nuanced, sophisticated decisions? Are the resistant to cognitive bias? Are they resilient? Do they respond well to unexpected events? Many of your staff may be specialists in their own field, but do they use all of the pertinent knowledge they have in making decisions? Do they have well-rounded mind, which produced well-rounded, nuanced decisions which work as well in the long-term as they do in the short-term?

 

Poetry improves the mind, in ways that neuroscience is only now beginning to appreciate. There’s a reason that the great sagas of early civilisations were recorded in poetic form – it was the only way they could be passed on through the oral tradition, the only way they could be remembered, because the practice of memorising poetry changes the human brain in such a fundamental and extraordinary way, that even the days-long saga of Mahābhārata 

could be remembered, word for word, by a series of sage poets. By generations of poet after poet..

 

Using poetry stimulates the memory, as music does. The combination of rhyme and rhythm, so intrinsic to our sense of language, and therefore to the function of our mind, elicits information from the subconscious. This information combines with conscious, learned knowledge to form stronger, more permanent memories, stronger, more permanent neurons and crucially, more deeply interconnected neurons.

 

This is at the heart of the benefit of using poetry. Connection is everything and not only is more connected neural structure, more permanent, and stronger – it is capable of carrying and simultaneously processing more information from more diffuse parts of the brain and memory – thereby enabling people to consistently make more sophisticated, more nuanced and more accurate decisions in their day to day endeavour.

 

Imagine how a rope is constructed. Thin fibres are braided into a large thread, with each thread then braided into a larger one. The process continues until the rope is complete. The more fibres that it contains, and the more tightly they are braided together the stronger the rope becomes. This is essentially how extra-strong neurons, with a massively upgraded processing capability, are developed through using poetry.

 

But these stronger, more interwoven neural structures do not only facilitate clearer, more informed thought and decision-making. They also enable better communication skills, greater empathy and understanding of others, improved analytical skills and

 

We create our brains through what we do. Physically, and mentally, the thoughts we have, the things we learn, the skills we physically and mentally practice and develop, from the basics of socialising; reading; writing; counting; to delving deep into complex subjects and achieving mastery of diffuse skills. These neural capacities in a modern learning environment usually grow together but largely parallel. This process links them up. It’s been recorded that many surgeons learned a musical instrument as a child. This did assist them to develop physical dexterity, and it also developed hand-eye coordination. But the most important development was of the complex, interconnected neurological structures which were created through the rigorous practice which were then available to be utilised in staying and the work of surgery. This is how poetry works – the structures created by the creation, memorisation and performance are  then available to be used for other cognitive purposes, as well as having a larger capacity for work.

 

Poetry brings the linguistic, emotional and logical processes of the brain together in ways it has never done before. A poem is a work of art, like a statue, made from emotions, thoughts, knowledge and memories. Some of those memories might be infrequently visited, some of their insights rarely dwelt upon, but in poetry an alchemy can provide resolutions, and connections which enable them to create something more insightful and far, far better they thought possible.

 

By memorising the poems they’ve created under the experienced mentorship, the increased structures are strengthened and made permanent, the process of performing then amplifies the benefits

It can allow people to think about their own acquired knowledge and learning in a new way. It can enable their brain to work in a more powerful way. And the brain structure they have created to create that poem is now available to process the information in their day to day work. Because it has more connected neurons it is more powerful and interconnected and therefore, they will make more connected, more nuanced decisions. Make fewer errors. Work better with each other. Know how to work better with each other. Make decisions better as a team.


Because this process through poetry links up areas of the brain that hadn’t previously communicated with each other, one of the benefits is what might be termed the amplification of nagging doubts. This can be vital in countering cognitive bias. The catastrophic decisions made by individual arrogance and groupthink that have brought down entire institutions are far less likely with a brain that is better connected.  Those that have doubts over a course of action can be more certain of their position, their voice louder and bolder which can help steer away from the accumulation of bad decisions which can be fatal to a company. Those banks famously brought down by a combination of hubris and cognitive bias would still be trading had their staff been trained through these processes.

It is interesting to note that some leading financial firms are now insisting on an arts degree in addition to a financial degree. They have realised that people who have been educated with multi-disciplinary approach, which contains the arts, produce better, more consistent results, as well as working better within a team. More rounded brains produce more rounded decisions.

 

Poetry has an incredible impact on the mind. The cumulative effect of these training practices when taught by a talented and insightful teaching artist it can massively benefit the productivity and happiness of employees and the firms they work for. It builds confidence, facilitates better communication and empathy, building stronger, better connected teams who function better as individuals and as a whole.

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