Some cultures might have evolved more sensitivity to poetry than others, perhaps associated with inherent musical and rhythmic aspects of particular languages and their origins. Men and women might even react differently to poetry. Little research yet exists on these possibilities. But Wassiliwizky said it is clear that interest in poetry in many cultures increases with rising political tensions. He pointed to examples in German and Russian history.
“In very recent times, in the context of the Arab Spring, a great number of Arabic poets emerged and gained high popularity,” he offered. “Given their great potential to express and elicit strong emotions and the high memorability, poems seem to fulfill a valuable function in times of political instability, repressions and the struggle for freedom.”
Poetry might conversely fall flat on the ears of some listeners, but its innate power to incite a physical response could amplify with exposure and learning. The researchers recommend that poetry should be given more importance in school lessons. Recitations by professional speakers could be helpful, but they say that students should be able to write and recite their own poems as well as those of others.
“Otherwise, they are dry and boring exercises,” Wassiliwizky explained. “Also, the simple fact that poems and lyrics are so much shorter than narratives is a great advantage in the classroom situation that is largely neglected nowadays.”
Another benefit of poetry is that it can integrate negative emotions in an overall positive aesthetic experience. Wassiliwizky is reminded of the words of the German poet Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805), who defined being moved as “the mixed sentiment of suffering and the pleasure taken in this suffering.”
In the future, the researchers hope to learn about the long-term effects of reading and listening to poems on the personality and behavior of individuals. They also hope to gain a more detailed understanding of the workings of both poetic language and music in the brains of listeners.