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.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Poet and Founder of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, Gary Glazner performs “These Are Real Brains,” with musicians, Carlos Santistevan, bass, Milton Villarrubia, III, percussion, Dino J.A. Deane, Sampler/Live Sampling, Molly Sturges, vocals, and Chris Jonas, saxophone at High Mayhem Emerging Arts Studio, 2811 Siler Lane, Santa Fe NM, Sunday, Feb. 20th, Noon. In addition the program will feature Tommy Archuleta, Valerie Martinez, the past Santa Fe Poet Laureate and John Flax.
Performing and creating poetry with people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia inspire Glazner’s poem “These Are Real Brains.” Working in the tradition of Dada, and Surrealist poets and drawing inspiration and methodology from cut-up and found poetry techniques, collage, and counterpoint, the poem looks at consciousness, attention span and the effects of the cut and paste computer technology. The poem mixes Glazner’s original work with well-loved classic poems. In speaking the lines of Shakespeare the reader uses the same vocal cord, larynx, lungs and lips as he did 400 plus years ago and brings that breath into the world. It looks at cultural touch points of Presidential dementia and explores what it means to love someone who no longer remembers that you are married. It speaks in the voice of people living with memory loss. The poem acts as score and text for improvisational performance and draws on the long history of poetry as oral art.
Here is a video of Glazner performing his poem, "Maps and Wings."
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Norman McNamara has been writing poetry and prose about his experience living with Alzheimer's disease. Find his poem "Silent Voices," below. He wrote it for World Alzheimers Day last year and it was read at an event held at Gloucester Cathedral.
He blogs at: norrms.web.officelive.com/
The blog has a wonderful video, info on his books, links to interviews
and other information. One of the honors of doing this work is meeting people like
Norrms, if in this case only on-line and getting a sense of his bravery and creativity in dealing with dementia head-on.
You may find more of his writing at
More than Words, Poems written and spoken by an Alzheimers sufferer
Silent voices shouting everywhere
Silent, yet still rising through the air,
Eyes that look but do not see,
Beating heart inside of me,
Forever wanting their life back,
No more wandering this lonely track,
To talk, to laugh, be understood,
To live their lives as they should,
One year there, next year gone,
Like the setting of the sun,
The Dementia Demon comes along,
Takes away your favourite song,
I have all this yet to come,
Vacant stare, body numb,
But to the end and from the start,
Place your hand around my heart,
Feel it beat inside of me,
Look in my eyes and you will see,
Happy scenes without a tear,
And my silent voice you will hear.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Our father died peaceful at home, with my brother Lon holding his hand, as dad took his last breath. On Christmas Eve we brought him to Kaiser hospital in Terra Linda and we spend the next three days at his bedside before they allowed us to take him home to die. The poem, “IV,” takes place during those days.
In going through our father’s papers I found a note he had written about growing up in Oklahoma.
“My earliest memories are of our farm in Blair. We lived in a two-room house. The ‘bathroom’ consisted of a one-hole out-house, and for Saturday nights, a large washtub. There were no kids living close by so I mostly played alone. My game of choice was pretending the tumbleweeds were cattle and I would chase them on a stick horse and rope them with a heavy cord. I would then drag them back to the barn and put them in the corral. With the Oklahoma wind always blowing this quite a job.”
The morphine on your breath
Could make a grown man dizzy.
His hands on my shoulders,
he helps to lift himself up.
IV stand, maypole ribbons
of tube and power cord.
We step, step, stop,
step, step, steady,
our way to the toilet,
rolling the stand after us.
He can sit up on his own,
I give him a moment.
Snap on surgical gloves,
gently clean him.
Reverse our papa waltz,
lay him down to rest.
Trying to look busy,
listening for his death.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Our father began his career in law enforcement as a Border Patrol agent in Texas in 1957. One story he tells about that time is how a Texas Ranger named Jim Nance traded his 44 Colt revolver for my toy pistol, putting it in my holster and letting me run up to my mother to show her my "new" gun.
This poem is based on the description my father told me about "cutting sign," the technique of Border Patrol agents use to track people.
You can tell a lot by how they walk.
If they’re lost, tired, scared,
the feet circle, drag, scatter.
You can tell their weight,
if they are a man, woman, or child.
Here’s a trick, sweep
a dry creek bed with a branch,
gives you fresh signs.
See how many you got.
If they have been walking in the sun,
short steps trace the heat right to them.
If they have been walking at night,
they break brush, unless there’s a moon.
Once, I saw the outline of knees
ground into the dirt
like crawling or praying.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
The Alzheimer's Poetry Project has its origins in part through my experience of using poetry in comforting my mother at the end of her life in 1997. This last week having the honor of being able to be at my father's bedside, again gave the chance to recite poetry to a dieing parent. The closing lines of Kubla Khan were especially powerful:
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
I would sit at the head of my father's bed, softly saying the poem and connecting to him by matching his breathing with the cadence and rhythm of the words.
Below is a section from the opening essay in Sparking Memories: The Alzheimer's Poetry Project Anthology, it includes how my father and I used "Can you Bake a Cherry Pie," to comfort my mother.
Whenever I speak about the APP one question always comes up: “Do you have a family member with Alzheimer’s?” I do not, however I do have a personal connection to using these poems with a loved one. When I first began this project in 1997, my mother was in the last stages of terminal cancer. Through a combination of the drugs she was given to relieve the pain and the progression of the cancer she had grown unable to think and communicate clearly.
One day my father called to ask me to come over as my mother was having a particularly hard time. On arriving, I found her quite agitated. I had with me the poems from the Alzheimer’s program and I began to read to her and soon she was calm. Then my father Billy and I began to recite apoem that she had teased him with when they were childhood sweethearts. My mother quite gently began to say the poem along with us, even laughing as she joined in:
Oh, where have you been Billy boy, Billy boy,
Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife, she’s the joy of my young life,
She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother.
Can she make a cherry pie, Billy boy, Billy boy,
Can she make a cherry pie, charming Billy?
She can make a cherry pie, quick’s a cat can wink her eye,
She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother.
It was one of her last moments of real clarity and a moment of playfulness that quite powerfully brought home to me how these poems could be of use to people.