When’s the last time you read or listened to a poem? Many of us gave up poetry in middle school after we memorized and recited that a poem for English class. But, you don’t have to be a poet or a dreamer to enjoy how the written word transports us to a more peaceful place. Poet William Wordsworth said, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”
Whether it’s a cadence you learned in basic training or that poem you memorized in middle school, words with rhythm and rhyme make us feel good. Studies show that reading, hearing and memorizing poetry can improve verbal skills and memory. It also improves critical thinking, develops empathy and insight, and encourages engagement with other art forms.
Creativity can help us heal from emotional and even physical problems. When we turn our thoughts to writing, painting or playing music, we can get lost in our imaginations and let go of troubles. Creative art therapies help patients become engaged in treatment, provide emotional support for Veterans and their families, and create an outlet for expression of feelings.
Mindfulness practitioners often use The Guest House, a poem by 13th century poet Rumi, to transform everyday moments into something special. This 5-minute 25-second recording does just that.
National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival
Every year Veterans from across the nation participate in the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival. Co-presented by VA and the American Legion Auxiliary, the festival is the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated at VA.
Veterans exhibit their artwork and original writings or perform musical, dance or dramatic selections in a live stage show performance. This annual competition recognizes Veterans’ progress and recovery. It demonstrates therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Nation’s Veterans. More info: https://www.blogs.va.gov/nvspse/national-veterans-creative-arts-festival/
Read about how one Veteran used poetry to help her cope with PTSD symptoms: https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/20745/poetry-compliments-ptsd-treatment-veteran/
Andrea Young is a field implementation team consultant with VHA’s Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation.