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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Arts in Medicine

Creativity in Elder Care
Training Medical Students in the Use of Creative Expression to Improve Elder Care
"The poem springs from the half-spoken words of such patients as the physician sees from day to day… This, in the end, comes perhaps to be the occupation of the physician after a lifetime of careful listening." -William Carlos Williams

We are excited to announce that in July 2016, we launched the The Art and Medicine Program at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine – Phoenix and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP), based in Brooklyn, New York, provided a series of participatory arts training workshops for medical students to use creativity with elder patients. We developed a medical student curriculum entitled, “Creativity in Elder Care,” for the Art in Medicine program. The program is now in its third year.

The workshops were co-taught by Gary Glazner, founder and Executive Director of the APP, and Cynthia A. Standley, PhD, professor in the Department of Bioethics and Medical Humanism at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Monday, January 9, 2017



Autumn in LA doesn’t make sense,
shouldn’t even be a song.
I wouldn’t even give it a second thought
It starts on Christmas day
You know what I mean. I’d be a fool to run there.
Autumn in Brooklyn, leaves falling. They do.
Autumn in Vermont, a slight mist,
tramping through the forest
Autumn in LA sounds like fun and laughter
A cacophony of horns on the 405
Doesn’t sound different than any other month
Smells like smog The kids go off to school. And we’re free!
The leaves change colors in autumn
in New York, weather cooling down
We don’t have that here
But the coloring of my liquidambar trees
And there’s a fragrance to it. Autumn.
There’s a street that has a tunnel of trees
They all turn, it’s a very pretty street
Nobody can afford to live on it
but it’s a very pretty street

Autumn in New York makes sense.
Autumn in LA doesn’t make sense.

Created by poet Sarah Jacobus, with the poets at OPICA. Sarah writes about the process, "I chose an autumn theme for today, despite the fact that it’s over 90 degrees here. I gave each participant a little pumpkin to hold, feel, smell. We did call and response with the first verse of James Whitcomb Riley’s The Frost is on the Punkin and made some vigorous kyoucks and gobbles and clucks. A woman in the group started humming Turkey in the Straw, and we realized we could sing the poem to that tune. So we did. Then we listened to Sarah Vaughan’s arrangement of Autumn in New York and talked about songs as poems."

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

RIP Pat Summitt

She was the winningest coach in basketball history. A few years ago she was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Here is a story by her good friend and writer Sally Jenkins on using poetry with Pat.

Jenkins gets the idea from an unnamed Alzheimer’s guide that suggests using poetry with people living with memory loss and the Longfellow poem that opens, “I shot an arrow into the air.” That is my story and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project is the unnamed guide. Jenkins writes, “After she was forced to retire, reading to her became harder as the disease progressed. One afternoon I followed the advice in the Alzheimer’s guide and tried a short poem. I read about Longfellow’s arrow, streaking through the air and coming down he knew not where, ‘For who has sight so keen and strong that it can follow the flight of song.’”

Jenkins goes on to use Mary Karr’s amazing poem, “Loony Bin Basketball.” That I had any small part in these two friends connecting through poetry is an honor.

Much love to the family, friends and fans of Coach Summitt.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nurses Day

Nurses Day
(By the Avalon Poets on 5/6/16 with past Poet Laureate of Madison, Fabu Carter)

I still am a nurse. Once a nurse, always a nurse.
I have such a pain in my neck. I need a nurse.
Nurses are kind; helping people recover from whatever is bothering them.
Nurses are very nice people to work with.
I love nurses.
Nurses are for us. They look after us.
I enjoyed teaching, but nursing is something else.
The noble profession of nurses.
I’m happy its National Nurses Month, week and day.
I’d like to be a nurse.
I always wanted to be a nurse and have someone call “Nurse, Nurse!”

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Imagine That- Sarah Jacobus

One of the pleasures of running the Alzheimer's Poetry Project (APP)
is the people you meet.
Sarah Jacobus has been taking the the APP on-line training
and it is true delight to see how she is shaping the APP to her own voice and vision.

In addition, Jacobus has been certified in the storytelling project, "TimeSlips,"
and is taking an improv class!

The poems she has been creating with her groups in Los Angeles are full of strong images.

This is a photo Sarah took of a budding peach tree in her backyard.
She brought clipping from the tree to share with and inspire her group.
She asked a series of questions around the theme of trees
and the group's answers became the lines of the poem.

I can't wait to see what her and her poets come up with next.
It is an honor to share their poem with you.


(The poem “I Am a Tree,” inspired by the Joyce Kilmer poem “Trees,”
was created with Sarah Jacobus by the poets at OPICA,
a Los Angeles adult day program and counseling center for people with memory loss.)

I have a strong central bark
and branches with flowers at the end
I am mostly green
a little brown at the tips
but mostly green, that’s for sure
I am brown, solid and gray
with little touches of red and blue
Fragrance clean
I smell like sweet apple
I shade myself from being frightened

Refreshing, I smell the air in the neighborhood
It keeps me from thinking of bad things
Refreshing, and raring to go explore the area
maybe a deer, or a small squirrel there
a brook with stones that are smooth
They make a person feel real good about life.

We had an elm tree in the backyard
There was another tree like it
3,000 miles away in Connecticut
It had the same fragrance
I could jump back and forth between them

I sit at the top of a windy hill and feel
nostalgic about an old memory
I’m a tree that hides me from the world
and lets me think about
who I am
who I want to be
What a memory

Sarah Jacobus, LCSW, MFA, is a Los Angeles social worker with a Master of Fine Arts Degree in creative writing. She is committed to creative engagement for elders with memory loss as a tool for meaningful self-expression, community building and fun. Trained and certified by APP founder Gary Glazner, she is currently bringing the APP method to senior centers, care communities and individuals in Los Angeles County

Learn more about Sarah’s work at

Friday, February 19, 2016

APP on Wisconsin Public Radio

Fabu Carter on Wisconsin Public Radio on the APP and how dementia effects the African American community. Fabu leads the APP in Wisconsin and works at the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Such an honor to get to work with her.

Please give the show a listen:Poetry And Alzheimer's

The Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center is a unique program combining academic, clinical, and research expertise from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health and the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC) of the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.

For Our Elders With Memory Loss
by Fabu Carter
(From Dementia Arts: Celebrating Creative in Elder Care)

Some call you seniors
I call you wise elders
Living long and learning much.

You should be honored
Your grey hair a symbol
Of victory and authority in life.

When your memory flees or hides
And every face seem strange
Remember the other signs of love.

The gentle touch, the kind voice
The spirit that welcomes you
Just as you are.

Reassure yourselves
That you know how love feels
For it will chase the fear of forgetting

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rhythm of Poetry

Rhythm is essential in performing and creating poetry with people living with memory loss. We often chant the poems using, "call and response," to engage the group. In this case "call and response," is where the session leaders says a line of poetry and has the group echo or repeat the line.

The NPR piece below, "How Rhythm Carries A Poem, From Head To Heart," gives a wonderful description of the importance of rhythm in poetry. The poet Edward Hirsch says, "Spoken-word poetry brings back that ancient feeling of poetry as performance and poetry as contest; and poetry as spoken, chanted, sung."

My background as a performance poet and my involvement with the Poetry Slam informs and guides my work as the founder of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project (APP). I trace many of the techniques and methods of the APP to lessons I learned in how to engage the audience as a performance poet. That ancient sense of poetry as performance is at the core of the APP.

One of the reasons "call and response," works so well with people living with memory loss, is that it taps into what neurologists call, auditory sense or echoic memory. In the book "Nueroscience," temporal categories of memory are defined in three classes:
1. Immediate memory
2. Working memory
3. Long-term memory

The book states, "The capacity of immediate memory is very large, each sensory modality, (visual, auditory, tactile and so on) appears to have its own semi-independent "memory register." Accessing immediate memory through the auditory sensory modality, we are able to engage in the performance of poetry. We find a high degree of success in asking them to repeat back words they have just heard and the rhythm along with rhyme help to facilitate the recitation.

Here is a joyful and playful example of "call and response," using lines from the EE Cumming poem, "I Carry Your Heart."