Rhythm DoctorThe pacifying effect of poetry.

Rhythm DoctorThe pacifying effect of poetry.

  • Words George Upton
  • Photograph Samuel Pasquier

The American poet Robert Frost once said that “the surest way to reach the heart is through the ear.” As he told journalist Sterling Brown in 1936, “the visual images thrown up by a poem are important, but it is more important still to choose and arrange words in a sequence so as virtually to control the intonation and pauses of the reader’s voice.”

Frost was speaking about the heart as the source of emotions, but it seems it is possible to take him literally as well: Studies have shown that reading poetry aloud can slow your heart rate, while also reducing stress and increasing feelings of well-being. It is an effect that Sir Jonathan Bate, the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, compares to beta-blockers, drugs that prevent the build...

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