Created by Dr. Fred London and Gary Glazner the founder of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, on Thursday, December 1st, 2011. By asking Fred a series of questions exploring poetry through his senses we created this Ars Poetica. His answers form the lines of the poem and are in the order given with light editing. Before creating this poem we performed model poems using a “call and response,” technique where I recited lines of poetry and Fred and his caregiver Claudia repeated the lines after me. The poems used were: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” T.S. Eliot; “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town,” e.e. cummings; “Sonnet 18,” William Shakespeare, and “Rattlesnake Meat,” Ogden Nash. Fred asked if I knew the work of two poets Allen Cohen and Constance Walker. Cohen founded the underground newspaper the San Francisco Oracle. Walker is well known for her poem “Pray for Peace,” which was reprinted in over twenty-five different publications. Dr. London passed away on the morning of December 3, 2011.
If I didn’t write it down it’s shhhhhhh.
Notice the color, this gray-brown
that eats up all the land.
When you reach out for it, it sneaks away.
Poetry reminds me of Walker.
She has a poem about the movement of a poem
as related to the story of a collections of poems.
Even though it sounds simple, it isn’t simple,
its like Frost, playing ball with a wasted arm.
A poem tastes sweet and orange flavored.
It grasps the poet by his trousers
and squeezes his crotch.
Stretching to gain more and he’s lovable.
When you mention poetry to most people
they panic: smart people, dumb people.
I have no time for that.
Poetry smells like,
famine-wolf-dog on a mountain,
running up the hill, biting the sun.
Once you read the poem,
you don’t want to put it away.
Once the poem gets going-
you can actually miss tennis.
Poetry sounds like a howling wind,
pushing up the shore.
Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Mission Statement
The goal of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project is to facilitate the creativity of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. We strive to advocate for cultural change in the healthcare industry and for the daily inclusion of arts in assisted living and adult day care. Further, we do not set boundaries in our beliefs in what possible for people with memory impairment to create.
By saying to people with dementia, we value you; we are saying we value all members of our community. By working with health care professionals and giving them a tool to have fun with and stimulate the people they serve, we are saying we value your work. By working with family members who have a loved one with dementia, we are saying you are not alone in your struggle to treat your loved one with dignity.
For more information, see alzpoetry.com
Dr. Frederick London, Internal Medicine, Board Certified graduated in 1959, from the Columbia University College Of Physicians and Surgeons and from Princeton 1955. He was a long time resident of Terra Linda, California where he worked for Kaiser Permanente. The Princeton Alumni Weekly in his obituary writes, “Gregarious and with an inquiring mind, Fred had a ready laugh, loved life, and had the self-confidence to tell jokes about himself. An outspoken staff member at Kaiser, he was much admired for his courage in disagreeing publicly on issues promoted by his ‘superiors.’ After learning to play as an adult, Fred became passionate about tennis. He loved poetry and, though suffering from Alzheimer’s, was able to compose poems right up to the end.” Dr. London is survived by his wife, Trudie and children Ryan and Adam.
Gary Glazner is the founder and Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, (APP). The National Endowment for the Arts listed the APP as a “best practice” for their Arts and Aging initiative. Glazner is an internationally recognized speaker and expert on using poetry with people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia and has given Glazner has given talks at over 30 conferences. NBC’s “Today” show, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and Voice of America have featured segments on Glazner’s work. Harper Collins, W.W. Norton and Salon.com have published his work. Glazner has worked with many institutions using their art to inspire the performance and creation of poetry by people living with memory loss including the Museum of Modern Art. In 2010, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin funded a pilot project for the APP in Germany, this work has led to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is funding a pilot project for the APP in Poland in 2012. To date the APP has held programming in 20 states and served over 20,000 people living with dementia.