Left brain vs. right brain: how it affects poetry

Left brain vs. right brain: how it affects poetry – words Al Woods

You are likely familiar with the 1960s theory on the two sides of the brain and how they affect human behavior, but have you ever wondered how it affects the arts, specifically poetry?

The left brain is the part that focuses on intellectual facts and analytical thought. The right brain is the home of all things creative and imaginative. With that in mind, you might think that an artist or a poet must be right-brained, right? Maybe not.


Left Brain

When we’re talking about the left brain, we’re talking about logic: math, science, and reasoning, and most importantly for a poet, writing and language. People who identify as left-brain thinkers often describe themselves as organized planners who appreciate structure and clear-cut guidelines. While there are definitely poems that follow patterns, free-flow poetry is often completely organic. Left brain logic can help control rhythm and rhyme, as well as the structure of the poem, but the right side is required for artistic innovation.

Right Brain

The right brain is where the creatives hang out. They tend to be more laid back, and more focused on imaginative things like feelings, emotions, music, and art. Things aren’t structured on the right side of the brain. Instead, they are open to interpretation and flexible. Creativity and imagination are prime examples of the fruit of the right brain. For a poet to tap into their right brain, they will have to control the inner critic housed in the left brain. So how do they work together?

Left and Right Working Together

As studies evolve and we realize that earlier theories were far too cut and dry in their ideas of how the brain functions, we understand that the two sides of the brain are not at odds but work together beautifully, especially when writing poetry. Daniel Nadler poet and entrepreneur, is a perfect example of one who is both left and right brained. In addition to being co-founder and CEO of the widely successful tech start-up Kensho, Nadler is also the author of Lacunae: 100 Imagined Ancient Love Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016), and the producer of IMDB Motherless Brooklyn.

How can someone who directs a research team at Stanford University’s School of Engineering and runs a successful technology company also work with film and write poetry? Daniel Nadler is proof that both sides of the brain can work together seamlessly to create the perfect harmony in human behavior. Neither side is more important than the other, and even though each side has its own responsibilities, they are designed to work collaboratively.

Poetry and the Brain

There is truth to the fact that the brain is divided into two hemispheres and each side controls different things, but from here, the research has been challenged and questioned enough that we know there is more to the brain and the arts than once thought. Studies have shown that both sides of the brain are affected by poetry. If the poetry is filled with emotion it will affect the ride side. If the work is more literary the left side of the brain will react. Lovers of poetry can enjoy creative prose and still utilize both sides of their brain. Poets themselves must recruit both sides to create a poem that is both moving and understandable.

When the perfect combination of poetry collides, you can enjoy form, structure, cadence, emotion, and movement all at the same time. Both sides of your brain will enjoy the stimulation, and you will be challenged and aroused; poetry is for the masses. It is an art form that transcends not only economic classes, race, gender, and nationality, but brain hemispheres as well.


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