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Joy: Why Traffic On Poetry Websites Has Increased During The Pandemic

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Traffic on poetry websites has been way up during the pandemic. No surprise - research shows reading and writing poetry can reduce stress and feelings of isolation.

NOEL KING, HOST:

NPR's online app, the Joy Generator, has some tools to help you engage with poetry, which is not just about feeling good; it's also good science. Keith Holyoak teaches psychology at UCLA.

KEITH HOLYOAK: Among cognitive psychologists, I'm one of the few who's also a published poet.

MCCAMMON: Holyoak also has written a book about poetry's effect on the brain.

HOLYOAK: What you see when you study people reading and reacting or listening and reacting to poetry, the kinds of areas of the brain that tend to be stimulated by music also are engaged to some extent by poetry.

MCCAMMON: Holyoak says poetry is literature's multivitamin. It benefits many parts of the brain.

HOLYOAK: So in the frontal cortex, we have, like, areas along the surface which are heavily involved in high-level thinking, processing metaphors sometimes. And then poetry is typically emotional, so emotional areas are all engaged as well. So roughly speaking, you get sort of a wide network that brings in a lot of the brain.

KING: So the next time you're in need of a mental pick-me-up, try poetry.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLOETRY'S "SUPASTAR (INSTRUMENTAL)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.