Thursday, 16 June 2016

Poetry: "Stressed Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease the Mind"

Stressed, Unstressed: Classic Poems to Ease the Mind


"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." Rudyard Kipling

This is a collection of poems which have been selected to fill our minds with more positive thoughts. It is "bibliotherapy"- reading for wellbeing. The poems have been chosen as a kind of prescription to help people when they are feeling stressed, anxious, sleepless or panicky.

The poems are organised in to 12 "chapters" ranging from "Stress Beating" to "Grieving" to "Feeling Alone" to "Seizing the Day". There is a straightforward, accessible introduction providing some clear and simple guidance as to how to read a poem and why poetry is particularly effective in calming the soul. Each section is prefaced with a short introduction relevant to the poems and purpose of that section. For example the first section entitled "Stopping" shows the reader how focusing on the cadence, rhythm and tempo of a poem can slow down your breathing, heart rate and induce a sense of calm. "Poetry as a beta-blocker for the soul".

Other sections show how by giving a poem your full attention, you can focus on "being in the moment" which encourages happiness and contentment; how concentrating on the images and meaning in a poem will allow you to escape from all your other thoughts and concerns - an act of mindfulness. The rhythm of poetry can create a kind of heart beat, by which you can regulate your own; the patterns creating harmony and balance which in turn can be felt by the reader. Reading some of these brief introductions made me realise just how powerful poetry can be and just how useful it might be in the art of mindfulness and just how medicinal it is.

The poems featured are mainly classics from a whole range of poets like Wordsworth, R S Thomas, Emily Bronte, Rossetti, Housman, Jennings and Robert Frost. There are some of my favourites and some I had forgotten or not come across before. I like how they have been organised and it is definitely a book I would dip in and out depending on my mood / interest. I don't think this has to just be for people who are stressed, but for anyone looking to take 5 minutes out of their busy day and spend a few moments absorbed in something totally different. Picking up a poem is sometimes easier than returning to the next chapter in your book and even if you are not much of a poetry reader this should not put you off. There is nothing mysterious, academic or inaccessible about these poems or the way in which they are presented. It is a must have for anyone who enjoys poetry and hopefully looks at familiar poems in a new light with room for fresh interpretation and use.

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