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    Monday, January 30, 2006

    Poetry: The Wonder Drug

    Put down the bottle. Pick up some Lyn Hejinian.

    Poetry is good for your health. That, at least, is the premise of studies currently under way for the Arts Council and the Department of Health. One study, published a couple of years ago in the journal Psychological Reports, suggested that writing poetry boosted levels of secretory immunoglobin A. Another, undertaken by a consultant at Bristol Royal Infirmary, concluded that poetry enabled seven per cent of mental health patients to be weaned off their anti-depressants. Poetry, it seems, is not the new rock'n'roll, but the new Prozac.

    This was not instantly evident at the ceremony for the TS Eliot poetry prize last week. Perhaps it was the strip-lighting, but the assembled throng of pasty faces and panda-shadowed eyes did little to foster a sense of radiant health. As feel-good events go, it ranked just above a tussle with your online tax return, but probably below a Thai takeaway in front of Celebrity Big Brother. It was, of course, not fair of Cyril Connolly to describe poets as "jackals fighting over an empty well", but it is true that £10,000 prizes do not, on the whole, boost the health and happiness of those who don't win.


    Umm, okay. Weird article. But remember: Anne Sexton started writing poetry to help with her recovery after her first institutionalization. Bad example?

    Why do I get the feeling that the studies above probably involved some heavy dosing on the Billy Collins?

    Suicidal readers of My Amusement Park: if you have been prescribed Charles Bernstein, or Ezra Pound, the side effects could kill you. Stick with time-tested Wordsworth, my friends.

    (Ripped from Fluffy Dollars.)

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