Studies Say Poetry is Therapeutic: 50+ Cash Prize Poetry Contests for Your Soul
“We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.”
William Butler Yeats
Ah poetry, everyone’s taken a stab at verse at some point in their lives. Some of us fell in love with what we considered to be horrendously embarrassing expressions of the heart, and others fell away from the endeavor entirely.
You may want to reconsider picking up that pen! (Or banging on those keys.)
Research suggests poetry helps us work through emotions and has a positive measurable physical and psychological response. Working in tandem with therapy or rehabilitation, writing poetry can help unearth indwelling feelings one may not be comfortable in vocalizing. If shared with a professional (or loved one) those topics may be broached with care. Sometimes we don’t need to start the conversation, we only need to help others along to the raw bits.
Here’s what Psychology Today has to say of poetry:
“There are a number of reasons why poetry may be particularly well suited to emotional expression. The use of metaphor and imagery may help the writer give voice to emotional undertones that would otherwise be hard to put into words. The use of rhythm may tap into powerful nonverbal responses, much the way music does. And the abstract nature of poetry may make it easier to take a close look at painful experiences, which might feel too threatening to approach in a direct, literal manner.”
The emerging therapies revolving poetry, fiction, writing, and the like is called “bibliotherapy-” like the aptly named bibliophile, or book fanatic.
(I really don’t have enough room for books, despite having three bookshelves, a mini bookshelf on my desk, and books in strange places. I never leave the house without at least one. But oh, the agony of bent pages!)
The wonderful (and perhaps maddening for some) font of therapeutic poetry is the work produced is not judged on literary merit– or how well the poem is written– it is solely a tool for self-expression. You don’t have to become the famed new poet of the ages to benefit from writing poetry. And trust me, I’ve written tons of awful poetry during the hard times throughout my life.
Although the poor quality of my work drove me personally mad, I only felt like I was in control of myself while writing. Engaging in poetry prevented me from plunging further into depression, states of mania, and lessened instances of self harm.
If so, then why not use poetry as a means to combat urges for addictive substances?
Let it all out, get to the underbelly of the problems catalyzing and perpetuating your use of addictive substances. Whatever it is– whichever emotions you want to address you’re free to go as deep as your mind will let you. I imagine it can get pretty dark in there- so let some light in!
If you need some extra incentives, there are plenty of state and national wide poetry contests you can enter– some have pesky entry fees (typically with a big payout at the contest’s conclusion) and others are freely entered. Here are a few listings to explore, and you can always find more by googling “free poetry contests 2016”:
Freelance Writing’s Megalist of Writing Contests (169+ listings)
Here are some of my favorite Collections of Poetry:
Skinhead by Patricia Smith (Performance piece, 3 minute video)
Share some of your poetry, or your favorite poets with us below!
About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.