Tuesday, June 08, 2010

poetry and neuroscience

I've been sick for the past several weeks, and since I seem to have slid into permanent unemployment, I spend all my time at home, with social networking passing for social interaction. Say what you will about the evils of Mark Zuckerburg et. al., Facebook can be a vital method of communication for the shut-in.

I won't speak any further about my own petty trials here, as I have done enough Gen Y Type solipsistic bitching on my own blog. Suffice to say I have been thinking about The Body even more than usual, especially the Disordered/Sick Body, as well as that cursed body-mind connection. That creative types are more prone to mental illness than non-creative types is a banal cliche until one is suffering under it.

Oxford poetry professor nominee Sean Haldane speaks, in this Observer interview about his career as a neuroscientist and poet, on the capacity of poetry to enact more change than psychotherapy (a heady claim from a scientific therapeutic professional):

"...poetry has more capacity to change people than psychotherapy. If you read a poem and it gets to you, it can shift your perspective in quite a big way, and writing a poem, even more so."

Reflecting on my own experiences with psychotherapy, significantly more expensive than my experiences with poetry, at least financially so, I can’t say for certain whether I agree with Mr. Haldane or not. I’m not familiar with his work as a poet, and a quick dip around his website suggested that his poetry is not my cup of tea. In any regards, he is a middle aged man with a job, which is so far from my own experience at the moment as to be alien, like, Mars alien.

Also, please feast your little poetic hearts on this little program. This is what you’ve been missing! Triple Threat!

Nikki Reimer is fighting the urge to lash out angrily at everyone/thing in sight.


Daniel Zomparelli said...

There was also a study that came out a while ago about how reading poetry (specifically iambic pentameter) slows down the heart rate to a healthy level, possibly increasing life span. But I'm pretty sure we poets drink enough to balance that out.

Don Share said...

Stay tuned to the pages of POETRY for an exchange between neuroscience dude Iain McGilchrist & Ange Mlinko on such matters!

nikki reimer said...

Thanks Don, I will look for that issue!

And Daniel, as always, you bring up my favourite pastime. After drinking, that is.

Lemon Hound said...

Going to find a copy of the latest Adbusters and suggest you do too:

Mental environmentalism may be the most important notion of this new century, but the only way to start this discussion is by admitting the analogy is not exact. Whatever the mental environment is, it’s not a pristine wilderness untrammeled by people. It’s not the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the Antarctic biosphere. No, the mental environment has been shaped by culture as long as we’ve been, well,human." --Bill McKibben

Daniel Zomparelli said...

It's a good recommendation, especially the latest issue which is the Whole Brain Catalogue. An attempt at rewriting the Whole Earth Catalogue but in Mental Environment terms. It was in the works just as I was leaving Adbusters.