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Poetry RX : how fifty inspiring poems can heal and bring joy to your life
2021
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Never before have we had a tour by such a tour guide through great poetry which can, heal, inspire and bring joy to our lives. - (Perseus Publishing)

"I used to believe that poetry did not “speak” to me, but I now see how wrong I was. I lived for 44 years with a husband, a lyricist, whose beautifully crafted, heartfelt lyrics touched my every fiber and continue to uplift and inspire me a decade after his death. The special beauty of Dr. Rosenthal’s book for me is his discussion of what each poem is saying, what the poet was likely feeling and often how the poems helped him personally, as when he left his birth family in South Africa for a rewarding career in the United States." - Jane Brody, Author & New York Times Columnist

Poetry to Heal, Inspire and Enjoy

Poetry Rx presents 50 great poems as seen through the eyes of a renowned psychiatrist and New York Times bestseller. In this book, you will find insights into love, sorrow, ecstasy and everything in between: Love in the moment or for a lifetime; love that is fulfilling or addictive; when to break up and how to survive when someone breaks up with you.

Separate sections deal with responses to the natural world, and the varieties of human experience (such as hope, reconciliation, leaving home, faith, self-actualization, trauma, anger, and the thrill of discovery). Other sections involve finding your way in the world and the search for meaning, as well as the final stages of life.

In describing this multitude of human experiences, using vignettes from his work and life, Rosenthal serves as a comforting guide to these poetic works of genius. Through his writing, the workings of the mind, as depicted by these gifted writers speak to us as intimately as our closest friends.

Rosenthal also delves into the science of mind and brain. Who would have thought, for example, that listening to poetry can cause people to have goosebumps by activating the reward centers of the brain? Yet research shows that to be true.

And who were these fascinating poets? In a short biosketch that accompanies each poem, Rosenthal draws connections between the poets and their poems that help us understand the enigmatic minds that gave birth to these masterworks. Altogether, a fulfilling and intriguing must-read for anyone interested in poetry, the mind, self-help and genius.


CONTENTS

Introduction

PART ONE
Loving and Losing

Chapter One
Is There an Art to Losing?
One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

Chapter Two
Can Love Transform You?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Chapter Three
The Heart versus the Mind
Pity me not because the light of dayby Edna St. Vincent Millay

Chapter Four
Love in the Moment
Lullaby by W. H. Auden

Chapter Five
When Love Fades
Failing and Flyingby Jack Gilbert

Chapter Six
Getting Over a Breakup I: Acceptance
Why so pale and wan fond lover?by Sir John Suckling

Chapter Seven
Getting Over a Breakup II: Reclaiming Yourself
Love after Love by Derek Walcott,

Chapter Eight
Declaring Your Love
Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? by William Shakespeare

Chapter Nine
Consoled by Love
Sonnet 29: When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes by William Shakespeare

Chapter Ten
In Praise of the Marriage of True Minds
Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds by William Shakespeare

Chapter Eleven
Loss of a Loved One
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone (Funeral Blues) by W. H. Auden

Chapter Twelve
Will I Ever Feel Better?
Time Does Not Bring Relief by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Chapter Thirteen
Love Remembered
When You Are Old by William Butler Yeats

Chapter Fourteen
Love after Death
Remember by Christina Rossetti,

PART TWO
That Inward Eye

Chapter Fifteen
Transcendence in Nature
Daffodils by William Wordsworth

Chapter Sixteen
The Memory of Daffodils
Miracle on St. David’s Day by Gillian Clarke

Chapter Seventeen
Transcendence in Body and Mind
Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey (excerpt) by William Wordsworth

Chapter Eighteen
The Power of Dark and Light
There’s a certain Slant of light by Emily Dickinson

Chapter Nineteen
In Praise of Diversity
Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Chapter Twenty
A Plea to Save the Natural World
Inversnaid by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Chapter Twenty-One
The Importance of Being Needed
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Chapter Twenty-Two
The Choices We Make
The Road Not Takenby Robert Frost

Chapter Twenty-Three
The Force of Longing
Sea Feverby John Masefield

Chapter Twenty-Four
Finding Hope in Nature
The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

PART THREE
The Human Experience

Chapter Twenty-Five The Power of Hope
“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

Chapter Twenty-Six
Welcoming Your Emotions
The Guest House by Jalaluddin Rumi Translated by Coleman Barks

Chapter Twenty-Seven
The Healing Power of Reconciliation
Out beyond Ideas by Jalaluddin Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks)

Chapter Twenty-Eight
Leaving Home
Traveler, there is no road by Antonio Machado Translated by Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney

Chapter Twenty-Nine
And Those You Leave Behind
Letter to My Mother by Salvatore Quasimodo Translated by Jack Bevan

Chapter Thirty
The Importance of Self-Actualization
On His Blindness by John Milton

Chapter Thirty-One
The Power of Faith
Psalm 23A Psalm of David

Chapter Thirty-Two
The Thrill of Discovery
On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer by John Keats

Chapter Thirty-Three
The Enduring Thrill of the Moment
High Flight by John Gillespie Magee Jr

Chapter Thirty-Four
The Long Reach of Trauma
The Sentence by Anna Akhmatova Translated by Judith Hemschemeyer

Chapter Thirty-Five
The Danger of Anger
A Poison Tree by William Blake

PART FOUR
A Design for Living and the Search for Meaning

Chapter Thirty-Six
Principles for a Good Life
Polonius’ Advice to Laertesby William Shakespeare

Chapter Thirty-Seven
Remaining Steady through Life’s Ups and Downs
If by Rudyard Kipling

Chapter Thirty-Eight
Never Give Up
Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Chapter Thirty-Nine
Putting One Foot in Front of the Other
The Waking by Theodore Roethke

Chapter Forty
Should You React or Proact?
Waiting for the Barbariansby Constantine CavafyTranslated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Chapter Forty-One
It’s the Journey That Matters
Ithaka by Constantine Cavafy Translated by Edmund Keeley

Chapter Forty-Two
Hold On to Your Dreams
Dreams by Langston Hughes

PART FIVE
Into the Night

Chapter Forty-Three
Should You Just Go for It?
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by William Butler Yeats

Chapter Forty-Four
Or Should You Be Careful?
Musée des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden

Chapter Forty-Five
Dying Too Soon
We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks

Chapter Forty-Six
Aging by Degrees
I Know I Am Getting Old by Wendell Berry

Chapter Forty-Seven
The Critical Importance of Communication
Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith

Chapter Forty-Eight
Should You Rage?
Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas

Chapter Forty-Nine
Or Is it Time to Go Gently?
Because I could not stop for Death by Emily Dickinson

Chapter Fifty
I Did Not Die!
Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

A Few Last Thoughts
Source Materials and Further Reading
Permissions
Acknowledgments
Index
About the Author

INTRODUCTION
You may well wonder how I, a psychiatrist with no formal literary credentials, have chosen to write about the power of poetry to heal, inspire, and bring joy to people. It all started with a single phone call that came in late one night.
The caller was my friend David, and I knew immediately by the tone of his voice that something was wrong. He choked up as he told me that he had recently lost someone very dear to him. “How can I go on?” he mused. “How will I manage?”
Clichés and generalities readily come to mind in such situations, but I searched for something specific to say, something that might actually help. Recognizing that David is a person steeped in the arts, I said, “There is an art to losing, and like all art, it can be developed.”
He was silent for a while, and when he spoke again, his voice sounded more cheerful, as though he had tapped into some hidden source of hope.
. “Do you know the poem ‘One Art’ by Elizabeth Bishop?” he asked.
I told him no.
“Well, let me read it to you,” and he began: “‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master.’”
As he read on, his voice gathered strength and energy with each stanza. Afterwards his mood was lighter—and strangely, so was mine.
. “Can a poem really help a grieving person?” I wondered, “and if so, might other poems also have healing powers?” I marveled also at how David had reached into the depths of his grief and presented me with a gift—a poem that offered me a fresh perspective on how to help someone out of the darkness that can engulf you when you lose someone you love. I shared the poem with patients and friends, many of whom found comfort in its words, and looked for other poems that might have similar effects.

Once I started looking, I found such poems everywhere. One friend, a therapist, had been so moved by a poem about aging by Wendell Berry that she had given copies of it to patients (It’s in chapter 46 in this collection). I bolstered my promising findings with Internet reports of comfort and relief in response to particular poems.
The idea of this book is that poetry can not only inspire and delight, but can actually help you feel better, soothe your pain, and heal psychological wounds. In short, as the book’s title suggests, poetry can act as a kind of medicine.
Although all literature can console, there is something about great poetry—its rhythms and cadences, its conciseness and brilliance—that has a power and charm all its own. One way in which poetry exerts its effect is that it is easier to remember, recall, and reproduce at will. We can at a moment’s notice dip into our memory and conjure up Wordsworth’s daffodils or Keats’ nightingale.

The Poems
The fifty gemlike poems in this collection have all stood the test of time and appear in published anthologies. They are all relatively short, most fitting on a single page. In their conciseness they deliver their messages in the most efficient, effective, and beautiful way possible.
Friends, patients, and I have all enjoyed and benefited from some or all of these verses. I hope you might find the same healing power and joy from them as we have.
The collection is divided into five sections, each covering an area important for a good and happy life: (1)?loving and losing; (2)?responses to nature; (3)?aspects of the human experience; (4)?a design for living and the search for meaning; and (5)?the last phase of life.

How to Get the Most out of a Poem
Although reading a poem seems like a very straightforward activity, it can be greatly enriched by a few simple tricks.
Remember to enjoy the poem.
It should be fun, not work!
Actively engage with the poem.
Give it your full attention, and it will reward you.
Read it aloud. That way you can enjoy the music in the words. Also, vocalizing the words involves different sets of nerves and muscles and different parts of the brain compared to reading it silently. Therefore it will create a different experience. But most importantly, reading a poem aloud deepens its therapeutic potential.
Read the poem more than once. One mysterious aspect of a poem is how successive readings reveal new layers of meaning. How strange! After all, the lines are right there on the page. When you read them the first time, they may seem perfectly clear. How, then, can they still yield new insights and rewards when you revisit them? Try it and see for yourself.
Experience the poem with all of your senses. A poem is no more a purely intellectual experience than a song or a painting or a spoonful of ice cream. For an example of a poem that engages all your senses, look at “Sea Fever“ (chapter 23).
As the reader, you complete the poem, in the process bringing your past experiences into the collaboration between you and the poet. At the moment of completion, it may feel as if the pieces of a puzzle are falling together. You may delight in the aha! moment as you think, “So that’s what the poet meant!” Allow yourself to experience the wonder a poem provides when it opens up new spaces in which your mind can roam.
Listen to others reading the poem. Many of the poems in this collection are read aloud online by talented women and men, and can be found on the Internet. One outstanding example is the sonnet “Pity me not because the light of day” (chapter 3), which is beautifully read by its author, Edna St. Vincent Millay. Neuroscientist Eugen Wassiliwizky and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt have found that recited poetry can be a powerful stimulus for eliciting peak emotional responses such as chills and goosebumps, by activating the brain’s reward circuitry.
Tolerate—and even savor—ambiguity of feeling and thought. Be intrigued by what you don’t immediately understand. There is such a thing as creative reading as well as creative writing. Often in poems, circuits are not completed, ideas are left unfinished or equivocal. This is not accidental. The unfinished business may serve as a focus of continued puzzlement, a brain teaser lingering in the mind, begging for a solution. Some experimental data suggest that people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed ones (the so-­called Zeigarnik effect). So it may be that by presenting the reader with unfinished ideas, the poet creates a more memorable and indelible work.
Pay attention to details. Punctuation, the separation of lines, their placement on the page, form, rhythm, and rhyme, as well as the white space that helps give the poem its shape, may all be part of what the poet is trying to communicate.

Remember, when reading a poem, it is your interpretation rather than mine or anyone else’s that is most important. As Dee Snider from the band Twisted Sister said, “The beauty of literature, poetry, and music is that they leave room for the audience to put its own imagination, experiences, and dreams into the words.” So any interpretations I offer are mine alone; I encourage you to differ.
And most of all, have fun engaging with these beautiful and ingenious creations. - (Perseus Publishing)

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1(8)
PART ONE Loving and Losing
Chapter One Is There an Art to Losing?
9(6)
One Art
Elizabeth Bishop
Chapter Two Can Love Transform You?
15(7)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Chapter Three The Heart versus the Mind
22(7)
Pity me not because the light of day
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Chapter Four Love in the Moment
29(7)
Lullaby
W. H. Auden
Chapter Five When Love Fades
36(7)
Failing and Flying
Jack Gilbert
Chapter Six Getting Over a Breakup I: Acceptance
43(5)
Why so pale and wan fond lover?
Sir John Suckling
Chapter Seven Getting Over a Breakup II: Reclaiming Yourself
48(7)
Love after Love
Derek Walcott
Chapter Eight Declaring Your Love
55(8)
Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
William Shakespeare
Chapter Nine Consoled By Love
63(8)
Sonnet 29: When, In disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
William Shakespeare
Chapter Ten In Praise of the Marriage of True Minds
71(6)
Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds
William Shakespeare
Chapter Eleven Loss of a Loved One
77(6)
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone (Funeral Blues)
W. H. Auden
Chapter Twelve Will I Ever Feel Better?
83(3)
Time Does Not Bring Relief
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Chapter Thirteen Love Remembered
86(5)
When You Are Old
William Butler Yeats
Chapter Fourteen Love after Death
91(10)
Remember
Christina Rossetti
PART TWO That Inward Eye
Chapter Fifteen Transcendence in Nature
101(8)
Daffodils
William Wordsworth
Chapter Sixteen The Memory of Daffodils
109(5)
Miracle on St. David's Day
Gillian Clarke
Chapter Seventeen Transcendence in Body and Mind
114(5)
Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey (excerpt)
William Wordsworth
Chapter Eighteen The Power of Dark and Light
119(7)
There's a certain Slant of light
Emily Dickinson
Chapter Nineteen In Praise of Diversity
126(5)
Pied Beauty
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Chapter Twenty A Plea to Save the Natural World
131(5)
Inversnaid
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Chapter Twenty-One The Importance of Being Needed
136(6)
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost
Chapter Twenty-Two The Choices We Make
142(6)
The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost
Chapter Twenty-Three The Force of Longing
148(6)
Sea Fever
John Masefleld
Chapter Twenty-Four Finding Hope in Nature
154(9)
The Darkling Thrush
Thomas Hardy
PART THREE The Human Experience
Chapter Twenty-Five The Power of Hope
163(5)
"Hope" is the thing with feathers
Emily Dickinson
Chapter Twenty-Six Welcoming Your Emotions
168(7)
The Guest House
Jalaluddin Rumi
Coleman Barks
Chapter Twenty-Seven The Healing Power of Reconciliation
175(5)
Out beyond Ideas
Jalaluddin Rumi
Coleman Barks
Chapter Twenty-Eight Leaving Home
180(4)
Traveler, there is no road
Antonio Machado
Mary G. Berg
Dennis Maloney
Chapter Twenty-Nine And Those You Leave Behind
184(6)
Letter to My Mother
Saloatore Quasimodo
Jack Bevan
Chapter Thirty The Importance of Self-Actualization
190(5)
On His Blindness
John Milton
Chapter Thirty-One The Power of Faith
195(4)
Psalm 23 A Psalm of David
Chapter Thirty-Two The Thrill of Discovery
199(6)
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer
John Keats
Chapter Thirty-Three The Enduring Thrill of the Moment
205(6)
High Flight
John Gillespie Magee Jr.
Chapter Thirty-Four The Long Reach of Trauma
211(9)
The Sentence
Anna Akhmatooa
Judith Hemschemeyer
Chapter Thirty-Five The Danger of Anger
220(9)
A Poison Tree
William Blake
PART FOUR A Design for Fiving and the Search for Meaning
Chapter Thirty-Six Principles for a Good Life
229(5)
Polonius' Advice to Laertes
William Shakespeare
Chapter Thirty-Seven Seven Remaining Steady through Life's Ups and Downs
234(9)
If
Rudyard Kipling
Chapter Thirty-Eight Never Give Up
243(6)
Invictus
William Ernest Henley
Chapter Thirty-Nine Putting One Foot in Front of the Other
249(7)
The Waking
Theodore Roethke
Chapter Forty Should You React or Proact?
256(5)
Waiting for the Barbarians
Constantine Cavafy
Edmund Keeley
Philip Sherrard
Chapter Forty-One It's the Journey That Matters
261(8)
Ithaka
Constantine Caoafy
Edmund Keeley
Chapter Forty-Two Hold On to Your Dreams
269(10)
Dreams
Langston Hughes
PART FIVE Into the Night
Chapter Forty-Three Should You Just Go for It?
279(4)
An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
William Butler Yeats
Chapter Forty-Four Or Should You Be Careful?
283(6)
Musee des Beaux Arts
W. H. Auden
Chapter Forty-Five Dying Too Soon
289(7)
We Real Cool
Gwendolyn Brooks
Chapter Forty-Six Aging
296(5)
Degrees
I Know I Am Getting Old
Wendell Berry
Chapter Forty-Seven The Critical Importance of Communication
301(9)
Not Waving but Drowning
Steoie Smith
Chapter Forty-Eight Should You Rage?
310(7)
Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas
Chapter Forty-Nine Or Is it Time to Go Gently?
317(6)
Because I could not stop for Death
Emily Dickinson
Chapter Fifty I Did Not Die!
323(6)
Do not stand at my grave and weep
Mary Elizabeth Frye
A Few Last Thoughts 329(1)
Source Materials and Further Reading 330(7)
Permissions 337(4)
Acknowledgments 341(2)
Index 343(22)
About the Author 365

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