The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, founded in 2004 by Gary Glazner, is thriving in several national and international locations. His idea is to engage people with memory loss by triggering memories of poems they learned in childhood.
The workshop leader begins by reciting a line from a well-known poem and the group echoes the line. Later in the workshop, the call-and-response technique is combined with an open-ended question that allows the group to compose a poem based on participants’ responses.
Poet Fabu has brought the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project to Burr Oaks Senior Housing in Madison, Wisconsin. “It is wonderful to see elders come alive when they hear the familiar poems that I read,” says Fabu. “They also recite poems to me from their memories. We always compose a new poem together.”
Below are poetry samples from some of the sessions at Burr Oaks. The programs are free and open to the residents at Burr Oaks. To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, contact Fabu@artistfabu.com.
by Burr Oaks Poets
Feels like you are losing focus, you may have memory loss.
I am 45 in the Lord. 45 years as a Christian which is my spirituality.
Every person has a space in their brain which houses memory loss. Psychological tests point that out. I was supposed to be a paraplegic. The boss upstairs said "No!" I am now working for homelessness. Homeless people suffer from memory lost.
I think memory loss doesn't have a particular age range—everyone forgets from time to time; in all of my conversations, I will say "I just can't remember that person."
I could never get students on Monday to remember what we talked about on Friday.
Once I got tested for Alzheimer and was told that I had average memory loss for people my age.
I remember simple things; my sister's arms outstretched in a crib. I remember thinking, "I love her." She had been crying and wanted to sleep.
Quiet help with memory loss when small important things come up.
Someone will mention a word and we reflect on the memories that come up.
Are you afraid of forgetfulness? I am past the fear. I'll say "this is interesting."
I remember Arthur Murray and the polka. I like the cha cha dance.
My little brother was a genius. He could take info and earn great grades. What a memory!
by Burr Oaks Poets
Alzheimer’s scares me to death.
How did they discover this disease?
As a kid, in high school, there weren't that many incidences. But we would hear elders say "So and So is touched in the head."
I had an Aunt who developed Alzheimer's disease. She had a huge iron stove and loved to cook. In the late 1960's, she still wore high collar dresses and played the organ in the evening. By the time we were in high school, Aunty was afraid of us.
Another reason we didn't know much about this disease is that elders refused to talk about it.
We each know someone who has been hurt by this disease.
Alzheimer's disease is really bad.