Alzheimer's Poetry Project

This blog will be a place to post poetry written by people living with Alzheimer's disease. We will focus on poetry that is created as part of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project. We will post information and news about dementia. We hope this blog is of use to the family members who have a loved one with dementia.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Poetry by Miriam Green

Questions my Mother Asked, Answers my Father Gave Her
by Miriam Green

Where were you last night?
I was here, with you, though you thought I was your father.
Where were you last night?
Out dancing with my lover who never forgets my name.

Where are the children?
They are grown with children of their own. They live in their own homes.
Where are the children?
They are waiting in the silken sky for your goodnight kisses.

Do you want a cup of tea?
Not now. I’m busy. You made some an hour ago.
Do you want a cup of tea?
I want many things. I want to stand with you under the canopy and never look forward.

How many children did I give birth to?
You cradled them both in your arms, raised them to adulthood.
How many children did I give birth to?
Daughter earth is calling. Go gently to her.

Where are my keys?
I told you. Check the back pocket of your bag.
Where are my keys?
We are locked inside this room together.

Is it time yet?
We have plenty of time.
Is it time yet?
Yes, it is time.

after Mark Strand

“Questions” recently won the 2013 Reuben Rose Poetry Prize. It appears on Miriam’s website
and in her as yet unpublished cookbook, The Lost Kitchen: An Alzheimer’s Memoir and Cookbook.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Definition of Angel

The poets of Pacifica Assisted Living Center in Santa Fe New Mexico and poet Joanne Dwyer created definition of Angel on November 20th, 2013. Model poems that were used in the session include: “In beauty may I walk,” Navajo – translated by Jerome K Rothenberg; “A List of Praises,” Anne Porter (Abridged); “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” Joy Harjo; “Te Deum,” Charles Reznikoff and “The Waking,” Theodore Roethke

Dwyer write about the sessions, “The theme of the session (because of Thanksgiving approaching) was gratitude and appreciation. The last two lines of the poem “A List of Praises,” are:

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood, And with the angels in that other country.

Which led me to ask the residents their definition of angel and hence came an unexpected poem, not just about gratitude, but angels. And the beautiful story that Wilbur shared from WWII. Wilbur, who at first, did not want to stay for poetry…”

Definition of Angel

A dark woman in a white cloud
wearing beautiful clothes.

White cloud with her floating around.
I wouldn’t know what to say to her.

Angels are little children.

Angel = heaven.

I have met the equivalent on earth many times.

I had an experience with angels in Israel.
My parents had died.
Things needed to be done, that I could not do.
Two weeks without food.
Suddenly a very tall, but young woman -
she wasn’t quite like we are.
She radiated love. "Where are you going, my little one", she asked.
"I am trying to get back to my father", I replied.

An angel is an angel.

There are many angelic people in the world
who are not self-serving.

A being that is beautiful and angelic.

I don’t know how many years ago,
in the war in the Pacific,
in the marine corps,
going from island to island
chasing the Japanese off...
Well, angels, I talked with -
maybe it was with angels.
I said, please spare me
and it helped.

Info on Joanne Dwyer

You may read Dwyer's work on the Poetry Foundation website. For info on her book, Belle Laide published by Sarabande Books

Friday, September 13, 2013

Poetry Project Helps Dementia Patients Live in the Moment

Here is the full piece on the APP which aired on Thursday, Sept. 12th. It was a blast to get to work with U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Correspondent Jeffery Brown, Head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, Rob Casper and Deputy Senior Producer, Anne Davenport. Hope you enjoy the segment!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

APP on PBS NewsHour

We were thrilled to be the first segment of PBS NewsHour's and U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey new series "Where Poetry Lives."

Correspondant Jeffrey Brown writes, "Welcome to the first in a new series of reports we're doing with U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey. We dreamed this up together, with the help of Rob Casper at the Library of Congress and Stephen Young at the Poetry Foundation, as a way to go into the world and look for poetry -- where and how it lives in sometimes unexpected places and ways. The idea is to follow where the poetry leads us into various corners of American life and, along the way, explore often difficult issues and problems in our society. Our first story involves the Alzheimer's Poetry Project."
Here is a link to Where Poetry Lives: Sharing Moments and Verse When Memory Fades by Jeffrey Brown

We started the day with the young knowledge seekers at ACE Preschool here is a video of us reciting -- and acting out -- William Jay Smith's poem Laughing Time.

A post of the full story, which aired on PBS Newhour on Thursday, September 12th, is coming soon.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Poetry in the Park

PBS NewsHour filmed today's Memory Arts Cafe. Jeffery Brown interviews Bernie in Prospect Park. We had a picnic, jammed with a sax player, recited poems by Whitman and Dickinson and created a poem about the park, a perfect day.

Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate recited Lucille Clifton's poem:
why some people be mad at me sometimes
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering

The group loved the poem and Natasha performed it with them using the "call and response," technique.
One woman called out the last line before Natasha recited it, saying, "That's just how I feel."
It was a lovely moment.

I will post a link when the piece airs. Probably in mid-September.
The Memory Arts Cafe is co-produced with New York Memory Center.
Christopher Nadeau, Executive Director of the New York Memory Center surprised us all
with a beautiful poem he had written on love.
Special thanks to Josephine Brown and her hard work on the event.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Memory Arts Cafe Visits Prospect Park

Picnic in the Park

Special Guest: United States Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey

Please join for a Memory Arts Café field trip to Prospect Park. We will visit the Boathouse, watch swans glide on a lake and see a waterfall. We will take in the park’s most famous tree the “Camperdown Elm,” which was planted in Brooklyn in 1872. It’s one of only a few surviving trees in the world grafted from an elm on the estate of the Earl of Camperdown in Scotland.

Poet Gary Glazner will lead the group in the creation of a new poem inspired by the nature of Prospect Park. Yes! It will be an easy walk in the park.

In 2012, Trethewey was named as 19th U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress. Trethewey plans to travel to cities and towns across the country meeting with the general public to seek out the many ways poetry lives in American communities and report on her discoveries in a regular feature on the PBS NewsHour Poetry Series.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Fox Valley Memory Project

First Ever! World Premier!
Inaugural Foxy River & Chocolate
Tasting Extravaganza Poem!
(The 55 poets of the Fox Valley Memory Project, with poet Gary Glazner and organizers John and Susan McFadden and Betty Lefebvre-Hill on July 24th, 2013, wrote this poem. These words set forth here commemorate the initial field trip Fox Valley Memory Cafes to Seroogy’s Homemade Chocolates, the River Room Restaurant, and a cruise on the Fox River. Which by the way did you know the river flows north?)

When I think of today, I think of fellowship,
Getting together to go to the river.

On the subject of chocolate:
I ate the whole piece!
Very smooth, sweet and just about perfect.
It bloomed in my mouth.
The taste of chocolate is friendly.

The coffee is good and hot.
Do you like it creamy?

Oooooooooo that chocolate was good.
The melt aways caused us to buy melt aways.
How would I describe the chocolate?
Uuuuuuum, uuuuuuum sooooth stuff!

On the subject of lunch:
Chicken, chicken, fish, chicken, chicken, fish.
Fabulous, tasty, excellent!
How would I describe the fish? Swimmingly!

On the subject of the river:
It's great, the first time I have had a river ride.
Lots of history.
We were raised a little way from here.
I love the white pelicans.
The lazy ones who don't want to fly all
the way to Canada.

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.

I love the water.
I love being out on a beautiful day.
Letting the boat rock me to sleep.

I like to go on the water but I don't want to be in the water.

There are lots of things I love about today.
What do i like about today?
Being out in the fresh air, the sunlight and the chocolate.

Enjoying the view on a perfect day.
I did not realize there was so much on the river.

I love seeing my mom out and enjoying herself
The smile on her face.

I like seeing bridges going up.
Seeing this part of the river.

There nothing like being on the water.
I love the calming effect.
Let someone else do the driving.