The recent story about the police using poetry to create changes in behaviour – among prisoners – is a welcome example of the immense power of verse.
It highlights how what I call ‘meme-friendly’ language is not only more helpful for word of mouth but also, a well written verse has a strong internal structure, which makes the subsequent message more powerful.
By posing your message in rhyme or verse, gives it a strong inherent coherence.
Perhaps the most famous recent example was during the OJ Simpson trial where the punchy line used by defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran: “If the glove don’t fit, You’ve got to acquit” achieved a memorable result.
My theory is that the brain recognises the message is true on one level: i.e. it rhymes or has some form of poetic structure. This may then help a further validation process to get your brain to then agree with the poetic statement’s underlying message.
I use poetry in my creativity teachings and creative writing classes for analysis, question framing, as well as re-framing words and phrases.
Sadly, I find the only previous time the significant majority of my class delegates did any poetry was at school. They all, after the initial trepidation, really enjoyed the act of writing a poem. Yet, sadly, it remains a pleasure drummed out of them through their education.
So, hats off to Staffordshire police who displayed a verse on the roof of 50 police cells which read:
‘Take some time and have a good think,
Are you here because of drink?
Support is at hand,
So ask today.’
OK, it may not be Worsdworth or Simon Armitage but it is at least enlivening the world in some way. And who knows, may actually work
Maybe this could be the first of a new trend of ‘Poetry in Action’ where public spaces have poems not statements.
Any suggestions for poetic versions of ‘Keep of the grass’ or ‘No Smoking’ or ‘Speed limit is 70’?