Poetry is a form of literature that eludes definition. It is an art form that emerges from the pure human need to express oneself. Poetry that is used for healing and personal growth may be traced back to primitive man who used it in religious rites in which shamans chanted poetic prayers or incantations for the well-being of the group or individual. Ancient poems have been found on Sumerian wax tablets and Egyptian papyrus. The poetic music of a shepherd boy named David date to 1030 BC. It is of interest to note that the first hospital in the United States, Pennsylvania Hospital founded by Benjamin Franklin, employed treatments for their patients which included reading, writing and publishing their poems. Doctor Benjamin Rush, the father of American Psychiatry, included music and poetry as part of his treatments.
Poetry is a powerful therapeutic tool; unique in its use of metaphor, imagery, rhythm and other devices. Freud and Jung among other great figures of medicine recognize the role of literature, like poetry, in the art of healing. By reading and reflecting on literature, such as poetry, the reader identifies and empathizes with the writer. The shared experience is similar to that of a group therapy situation. After all, there is nothing new under the sun.