It was at this moment I was shown the absolute power
poetry has over Alzheimer’s

I have to admit, coming into today I did not expect much from this workshop. I work with the elderly on a daily basis due to my occupation, so I was expecting a group of senile, cranky, old people that I have to delight to work with everyday. However, it was within the first few minutes that my outlook had completely changed.

Upon entering the nursing home I recognized some people that I know either from my job or due to the fact that I live in a tiny town in rural Wisconsin. I was especially moved by a woman named Dorothy, her Alzheimer’s is so significant she could not remember her name and she thought I was one of her grandchildren.

At first she did not want to partake in any of the poetry activities. But once we began to do the rhythmic poems by Emily Dickenson her face was filled with happiness and she gripped my hands with such force I almost had to retreat my hand. This could have been a poem from her childhood. It brought her great joy and her pure elation. It was at this moment I was shown the absolute power poetry has over Alzheimer’s.

For the rest of the session Dorothy held my hand softly, stroking it, smiling in bliss, and asked me to come back at the end of the session.  I am very blessed to have been part of this project and I will always remember the lessons taught during the session.
                                                                       -Cody Tulip, Durand High School, Durand, WI



Key of Poetry
Minds like locked boxes

Presented in the round
I used language like keys
And love is what I found
Love for the now and for history
And the love was unlocked
With the key of poetry
 - Jalen Bell, 2014 Arkansas State Champion



I had no clue what to expect in this “class.” I put “class,” in quotes because it didn’t feel like a class (which is a really good thing), and yet I learned a lot. I guess I thought I’d be sitting through a lecture on why poetry can help Alzheimer’s patients. But instead, my friend friends and I were called up to talk about our hobbies, places we’ve been, and things we like, in front of the seniors. Our teacher started to make poetry and songs out of the things we said (everyone got to help out saying the poems).

At the beginning, the seniors weren’t talking much. But as we had more chances to engage them with fun activities, including letting them feel raven feathers on their hands and cheeks, they began to speak up. Some of them started telling us past experience, which was really cool considering some of them, were Alzheimer’s patients. I laughed a lot and so did everyone else. It was so much better than I expected and I had a great time.
                                                                - Caden Self, Home School, Saint Louis, MO



Shaking youthful hands
with wrinkled hands
Knowing that one day
my hair will be
as white as theirs
One day I might need
young smiles
With mouth full of teeth
to smile at me
An extra boost
to make me smile
Shaking youthful hands
with wrinkled hands
Is what changed my life

-Heidi Hankins,
Charleston Summer Camp, Charleston, MS