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, December 20, 2011


This poem was created as part of the Meet Me at MoMA project. New York poet Gary Glazner and Francesca Rosenberg, MoMA Director of Community and Access Programs, led the session. Van Gogh's panting "Starry Night," served as the inspiration for the poem. Questions were asked around what the participants felt while looking at the painting and what stars might, taste, smell and sound like. The participant’s answers form the lines of the poem.

Very calm- and yet there’s turmoil.
A little suspect, a little sinister,
something evil about it, that plant.

A star tastes delicious.
A star tastes like a milky way.

If I had a thought, I would but you’re okay
so you can get away.

A star smells like peanut butter.
You’ve got to do it.

The stars sound like full heritage.
Everyone looks at a star and dreams.

A star sounds like a symphony.

The painting is soothing you could sleep happily.
I see bi-polar, I feel pity for the person
describing his feelings in the painting.

You can read a lot into Van Gogh’s painting.

I like the sun the way it moves.
Oh my goodness!
Let me think about that now.

Not to count everything that you can use.

It looks like a storm.
Blue’s my favorite color, as we can see.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Starry Nights

Thrilled to lead a workshop next Tuesday with with Francesca Rosenberg as part of the Museum of Modern Arts' "Meet Me at MoMA" project. We will use the artwork to inspire people living with dementia to perform and create poems. A dream come true for me is being able to use "Starry Nights," by Vincent Van Gogh.

Meet Me at MoMA

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Article on the APP in My Hometown Paper

Photo Credit: Frankie Frost

Richard Halstead wrote a wonderful article on our Alzheimer's Poetry Day- Novato.
The event was sponsored by the North Bay Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association
and partially funded by the Bill Graham Foundation. Big thanks to Shelley Dombroski
of the Alzheimer's Association and Holly Rylance of LifeLong Medical Care for setting up the event.

Read the article Marin Independent Journal.

More on LifeLong Medical Care Here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Alzheimer's Poetry Day- Albuquerque

Alzheimer’s Poetry Day Comes to Albuquerque

Alzheimer’s Poetry Day will take place 11am to 1pm, on Saturday, November 5th at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th Street SW, Albuquerque.
Free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Alzheimer’s Poetry Day is a celebration of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP). Readings will be in English and Spanish. Guest artist Jimmy Santiago Baca will give a reading of his original work. Gary Glazner, founder and Executive Director of the APP and APP Spanish Director and poet Michelle Otero will read classic, well-loved poems and poems written by those with Alzheimer’s.

They will also speak about the APP and the findings from the pilot program conducted in New Mexico, as well as provide tips on using poetry to connect with people living with dementia. A highlight of the event will be the creation of an original poem by the poets and the audience. This event is designed for everyone from activity directors to caregivers to persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and their families.

Jimmy Santiago Baca collections include Selected Poems / Poemas Selectos (New Directions, 2009), C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans: Dream Boy's Story (Grove Press, 2002), Healing Earthquakes (2001), Set This Book on Fire (1999), In the Way of the Sun (1997), Black Mesa Poems (1995), Poems Taken from My Yard (1986), and What's Happening (1982). A self-styled "poet of the people," Baca conducts writing workshops with children and adults at countless elementary, junior high and high schools, colleges, universities, reservations, barrio community centers, white ghettos, housing projects, correctional facilities and prisons from coast to coast.
More info at

Michelle Otero A writer, performer, and teacher, Michelle Otero is the author of Malinche's Daughter, an essay collection based on her work with women survivors of sexual assault in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her work has appeared in Artful Dodge, Brevity, and Puerto del Sol, and her awards include an Associated Writing Programs Intro Journal Award and a Fulbright Fellowship. She is member of the Macondo Writers' Workshop.

Together with visual artist Chrissie Orr, she teaches multigenerational art and storytelling workshops through El Otro Lado: The Stories that Connect Us. She holds a B.A. in History from Harvard University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. A tenth-generation New Mexican, she is Creative Director of Valle Encantado, an organization promoting sustainable development initiatives in the Atrisco historic core in Albuquerque, and co-founder of Connecting Community Voices, an Albuquerque-based organization building positive social change through creative community expression.

More info at

This event is partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, New Mexico Chapter and New Mexico Literary Arts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TimeSlips ON-LINE!

Many people are familiar with Anne Basting's amazing TimeSlips story telling project. She and her team have been hard at work for the last year or so building a user friendly web version of the project. Here is what Anne writes:

"The new storytelling software is playful and easy to use. I think you'll like it.

Here's how:

-sign up (it's free!)
-Click Start a Story and play with the story software (you can invite friends to tell stories with you!)
-Send stories to your FB page, or email them to friends.

2) Send a personal email to friends you think might love this site.
3) Put a short blurb about the new site on your blog or into your newsletter.
4) Tell groups you're leading about the site as a resource.

I can't thank you enough. I feel like we have an amazing tool to give people - to let the joy of imagination brighten their lives."

Please give TimeSlips new tool a try!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lonnie Sue Johnson

Wonderful article in the NY Times today. This quote says so much about people living with cognitive impairment, “She is not an empty shell. There is something about your identity that’s distinct from memory.” So much more heartening than Pat Robertson's recent dust-up on divorcing one's spouse when they have Alzheimer's. Here are a couple of links to Robertson:


New York Times

Below is another of John Fons' poems in tribute to his mother.
In Memory

I love you.
I have always
Loved you.

You are not
With me
Now, but
I know
Your love
Is with
Me always.

We have
Never stopped
Loving one
Another. The
Time of
Our love
Is not
In days
Or weeks
Or years.

Means eternity.
That is love
And love
Weds you
And I

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Venita Fons

One of the highlights of the Alzheimer's Poetry Day held at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin on August 2nd, 2011 was having local poet John Fons participate. He has been writing poetry on his experience with his mother living with dementia.

John Fons is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife Jane. He worked with his father, the late Lloyd C. Fons, in oil and gas exploration before graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary. John’s mother Venita and his father celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary in Chicago where once they recognized each other at the intersection of State and Randolph after a childhood friendship and subsequent separation for many years. They raised four children. Venita is now diagnosed late Alzheimer’s and resides at a memory care unit in California. She remains as she has always been, a kind and loving soul intent on finding the best within herself and others.

Here are two of John's poems:


Who are
These people
Who come
To say

They never
Where do
They think
They go?

My son,
My daughter,
My niece,
My nephew
Always within
My heart.

My sister,
My brother,
My closest
Friends have
Lived within
Since love
First made
Us one.

I keep
Them here.
They cannot

Where do
They think
They go?


These are
Written to me.

I love these
Letters written
From loved

See them
Where I
Keep them.

Here is
One from
My son.

Another from
My daughter.

I have a
Few from
My friends
At church.

Here’s another.

Alzheimer's Poetry Day- Madison was partially funded by the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, the Helen Bader Foundation and the Madison Arts Commission.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Alzheimer's Poetry Day- Baraboo and Madison

Here is Karin Barreau reading her poem "Time is Here," written for her neurologist on his retirement. She will be featured at Alzheimer's Poetry Day, 11am to 1pm, on Tuesday, August 2nd, at Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State Street, Madison, WI.


Free and open to the public, the Alzheimer's Poetry Day- Madison is a celebration of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project. Fabu Carter Brisco, Madison Poet Laureate Gary Glazner, founder and Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project and Wisconsin APP Director, Lisa Auter will read classic, well-loved poems and poems written by those with Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer’s Poetry Day- Baraboo will take place 11am to 12:30pm, on Saturday, July 30th, in the cafeteria at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, 1006 Connie Road, Baraboo, WI as part of the Summerset Festival of the Arts. Featuring members of the Sauk County Writer’s Group, “The Purple Cow Poets,” and APP founder Gary Glazner

Alzheimer's Poetry Day is funded in part by the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, the Helen Bader Foundation, the Madison Arts Commission and the Poetry Foundation. Sponsored by the Alzheimer's & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Michele Brody

I had the pleasure of meeting New York artist Michele Brody at Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Here is an image of her Tea House Quilt.

She has people write on over-sized tea bags, poems, stories, musings. Yesterday Brody attended the poetry workshop at Park Slope Geriatric with the idea that in the fall we will collaborate having people living with dementia participate in creating a quilt. We experimented with passing around tins of tea and letting the group describe the scent. We created a poem on our favorite beverages and on sharing meals and drinks with family and friends.

We used one of Issa's haiku as inspiration

drinking tea alone--
every day the butterfly
stops by

The group liked the idea that one could visit with a butterfly. 

You may read more about Brody's Tea House Project at:
Tea House

Like many artists Brody has a multitude of ideas and has a wide range of interesting projects up and running. One of her most fascinating projects is her Nature Preserve. Also, like most artists she is seeking funding you may read about the project and find out how to help out here:

Nature Preserve

To raise funds for her work she is using United States Artist. This type of social media funding site like Kickstarter is becoming more popular and is worth checking into is you are not already familiar with them. I encourage you to check out and support the project.

You may read more about Brody's work at:

Michele Brody

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Alzheimer A Visual Poem

Petra Anders sent me a link to this poem by the Dutch Artist, Peter Meijboom

You may see more of his visual poems at: VISUELE+POEZIE

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Arts! by the People

Paul Rabinowitz, Director of Arts! by the People is a truly inspiring person. I had the great pleasure last year of of working with him and his artists. The group he has put together reflects his passion and drive. It was a treat to get an email today detailing the work he has been doing with the Lester House Poets in New Jersey. Here is Paul's program lesson, the artwork that they used and the poem the artwork inspired. Paul writes:

"At our Friday poetry session our senior citizens of Lester Housing experimented with ekphrastic writing. Ekphrasis is the graphic, often dramatic description of a visual work of art. We read ekphrastic poems inspired by Edward Hopper's, Nighthawks and Pablo Picasso's, Man with a Blue Guitar. It turned out to be a fascinating session because of the abstract nature of our dialogue.

They decided to title the poem [untitled]. An abstract idea in itself! They wanted to add their own free form lines to introduce the work.

At the end of the class I revealed to them that the artist is their fine arts instructor, Willie Baez.

A big thanks to Willie for introducing me to this unique form of expression and for lending us the artwork. Also a big thanks to Stacy Osei-Kuffour for helping out and transcribing."


a man for all seasons,
tightly interconnected random thoughts.

When I look at this painting
I see above me and below me and side to side slowly
I see nature and food and plants and good things to smell and eat
I see a dreamer; I see things he might like to do
I see life, food, flowers, dreams; what makes the world
I see balance in one's life
I see reflections things past and present

Created by the seniors at Lester Housing in our Talking Poetry Class, June 03, 2011
More about Arts! by the People at:

Friday, May 27, 2011


I had the good fortune to speak on the Alzheimer's Poetry Project at the 9th annual National Latino Writers Conference held May 18th to 21st in Albuquerque at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. We are working with Carlos Vasquez, the History and Literary Arts Program Director and holding an APP event there in November. He was kind enough to ask me to give a welcoming talk. I met a number of writers including Elena Díaz Bjorkquist who generously shared some of her poetry on her response to her father's dementia.


Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

I ask, “Who am I?”
Daddy lowers his gaze
As if the answer
Will appear
on the floor

Minutes drag by,
I hold my breath –
Has he forgotten me?

Suddenly, he looks up,
“Elena . . .
you’re Elena.”

Satisfied, he nods.
I exhale,
Return his smile,
Pat his shoulder.

He’s forgotten much
But not me.

Elena taught at Santa Rosa Junior College in California for a year before running the CETA Program for the County of Sonoma. When she moved north to Mendocino County she started a bilingual program for Mexican children and taught ESL and Spanish. Later she taught U.S. History and Spanish at Mendocino High School. In 1990, she retired from teaching and began writing Suffer Smoke. In the fall of 1996 she returned to teaching with a position at Sonoma State University where she taught Chicano/Latino Studies classes. More about her at

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Poetry by Octavia McBride

What Remains
For Mom

her memory
a soup of evaporating dissonance
has survivors
gentlemen with brogues, mouthing all kinds of blues
Yeats & lots of Langston

Octavia McBride and her daughter Sojourner have worked with the APP in Philadelphia. Her new poetry collection, "Where My Birthmark Dances," will be published by Finishing Line Press this July. For more information go to:

We will post more of her poetry when the collection comes out. It was delightful to work with her and her daughter. Congratulations on the new book!

The image above is from Sojourner's blog and shows Octavia hanging a poetry butterfly! Read more at:

Octavia McBride-Ahebee is a writer of poetry, short stories and plays. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States, McBride-Ahebee lived for nine years in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa. A former reporter for The Philadelphia Tribune, her literary work has appeared in the following books and journals: It Is Time For Change; Speeches of William R. Tolbert, The Beloit Poetry Journal, International Quarterly, The Eagle Spirit, and Poet Lore (2nd place winner in the John Williams Andrews Narrative Poetry Competition).

Educated at Williams College and Cheyney University, McBride-Ahebee's debut collection of poetry, Assuming Voices, has recently been published by Lit Pot Press. McBride-Ahebee's poetry gives voice to women who historically have not been heard; African women, women in refugee camps, women who are victims of civil war, women who are new immigrants and village women battling such diseases as breast cancer and obstetric fistula.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Poem in Your Pocket Day

The Alzheimer's Poetry Project is proud to be asked to participate in the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs' Poem in Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 14th. We will perform and create poems about the life in New York with the people at Park Slope Geriatric and CV Star adult day care programs.

Poem in Your Pocket Day

We will be posting more information about the events soon. You may see videos of people living with dementia responding to poetry on the

APP YouTube Channel

10am, Poetry Session
Park Slope Geriatric
199 14th Street NY 11215

1pm, Poetry Session
CV Star Adult Day Care
445 E. 85th Street, New York

Contact Gary at for more information.

Info from the DCA
In honor of April as National Poetry Month, the City of New York sponsors the annual Poem in Your Pocket day. During the month and on PIYP day, schools and cultural organizations across the five boroughs host poetry readings and writing workshops focusing on poetry.

The Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, initiated the annual citywide Poem in Your Pocket day (PIYP) celebration in 2002. The goals of PIYP day are to showcase the talented faculty and student poets in higher education and the K-12 system, and encourage New Yorkers to embrace literacy and poetry.

In 2009, the Academy of American Poets took Poem in Your Pocket day national, allowing individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard. The Academy also published Poem In Your Pocket, a book that enables you to select a poem you love, tear it out, and then carry it with you all day to read, be inspired by, and share with coworkers, family, and friends.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poem in Harper's

Very excited to have this APP poem published by Harper's this month. Here is the link, hope you enjoy it!

Harper's Magazine

From “Sun,” a poem written by early-stage dementia patients during a workshop hosted by the Purchase, New York, chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Gary Glazner, a New York–based poet and founder of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, led the group in creating a poem about the sun, using Hone Tuwhare’s poem “Rain” as a model. The lines of the poem are comments by the participants in the original order.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Poetry opens Friday

Great review by MANOHLA DARGIS in the New York Times today for Lee Chang-Dong's film "Poetry." Here is a clip from the review, "The film which won For Mija, a 66-year-old raising her only grandson, Wook (Lee David), in a cramped, cluttered apartment in an unnamed city, the pursuit of poetry becomes a pastime and then a passion and finally a means of transcendence. At first, though, it’s a pleasant distraction from an otherwise mundane existence, if also a way to exercise a mind that, as a doctor tells Mija early on, has begun to slip slowly away from her. Out of fear or confusion, she keeps the diagnosis to herself and almost from herself, telling neither Wook nor his mother, who lives in another city. Instead she dons the poet’s cap. “I do have a poet’s vein,” she says, chattering into her cellphone. 'I do like flowers and say odd things.'"

New York Times Review

Lee Chang-dong has done an excellent job and the film is beautifully shot. The screen play is powerful and weaves poetry into the plot of a woman using art to navigate her decent into dementia. With the aging of the baby boomer generation we are at the start of a real challenge. This film will help to bring public awareness to the issues around how best serve and help people living with dementia. To see real life examples of people living with dementia responding to poetry go to:

AlzPoetry YouTube Channel

We have had much success in performing and creating new poetry with people living with dementia. You may see programming in English, Cantonese, and Spanish, as well as a recent program where people were inspired by and wrote on bananas.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Glazner performs at High Mayhem

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

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:

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

Cutting Sign

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.

Cutting Sign

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

Can you Bake a Cherry Pie Billy Boy?

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.