April, coincidentally, is both National Stress Awareness Month and National Poetry Month.
Wait, maybe that's not a coincidence.
Poetry, it turns out, is a great stress reliever. A quick online search of the phrase “poetry and stress relief” leads to more than a million results. A seemingly endless collection of articles, blog posts and videos point to the myriad ways reading, writing and listening to poetry can help us overcome the stress that often accompanies our modern lives.
One example from the U.S. Army’s website is especially telling.
Back in 2010, American soldiers in Afghanistan were looking for ways to relieve the stress of their military duty – so they started a monthly poetry reading session.
“Stress can be one of the biggest issues a war fighter faces while deployed,” writes Spc. Jonathan Thomas, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, “To stay healthy each soldier must find a way to battle that pressure.”
Thomas explains how a group of soldiers in Spin Boldak (southern Kandahar) found a way to cope with their situation in his online article “Soldiers Relieve Stress Through Poetry.”
Capt. Tammi Summers of Headquarters Company, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, started a poetry night to give people a chance to share their work in a deployed environment. "People of different race, backgrounds and ranks can come together and feel free to express themselves," said Summers, a Columbus, Ga. native. “It's like another world in there. It gets you away from the stress of work, and it gives you a chance to be able to relax." (Read more at www.army.mil/article/49327/Soldiers_relieve_stress_through_poetry/)
If poetry can relieve stress for soldiers in a war zone, imagine what it can do for the rest of us!
Closer to home, I’ve set out to help find ways to make poetry more accessible to a broader audience. A few years ago, I started the Piedmont Poetry Project. The goals of the project are simple, really -- to help celebrate the work of our region’s writers and poets while offering ordinary citizens a chance to enjoy the benefits of experiencing poetry.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that lots of people enjoy poetry – and many even write poetry of their own. People I’ve met tell me that they keep journals or write things on scraps of paper and quietly tuck them away. Others respond to near-daily inspirations by composing on their computers at work.
And, while some people claim that they have not read or written a poem in years, they also mention that they still have an old notebook filled with poetic scribblings from their younger days hidden away in their attics or garages.
So, I argue that we all have a bit of poetry stirring within us.
With that in mind, let’s make reading, writing, and sharing poetry a more prominent part of our daily lives. After all, it may help reduce a little stress along the way!
Bill Diskin is director of admission and financial aid at Cannon School in Concord. Follow his tweets @billdiskin.
We want your poems
Once a month, the Independent Tribune will publish a poem or two submitted by readers. Contributors do not need to be published poets.
If you are interested in having your poem considered for publication in the Independent Tribune, please e-mail it to Bill Diskin at email@example.com. Or, send a copy via to postal mail to Bill Diskin, c/o Independent Tribune, 363 Church Street N, Suite 140 Concord, N.C. 28025.