Is Poetry Good for You?

Here at The Toads, where we have, since 2007, contributed to the general discussion of literature, we sometimes get questions regarding the uses, benefits, and effects of reading poetry: Is poetry good for you? How long does it take for a poem to kick-in? What are poetry’s side effects? How long does a poem last? Will reading poetry help my anxiety, depression, or pain?

These and similar questions are often accompanied by anecdotal experience offered as evidence or symptom. Someone knows a guy who read a poem and joined a cult; another attended a poetry reading and woke up with a hangover; a mother noticed her daughter slipping a book of poems into her missal at Mass – what to do?

What’s the best time of day to read a poem? Is it ok to read poetry while on steroids? Should you mix poetry with television? Are there any good poems about math? Can you suggest a good gluten free book of poems? What are this poem’s contraindications?

Medical doctors may suggest reading no more than two standard length poems per day. All things in moderation, including poems. As for the opinion of the man on the street, Everyman, vox populi, the wisdom of the crowd seems never closer to madness than on the subject of poetry.