Poetry and dementia

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Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

This post looks at how poetry might intersect with dementia.


poetryanddementiaPoetry and dementia : a practical guide  /  John Killick  (2017)

Poetry is an engaging and inclusive activity for older people that can help develop memory, imagination and identity. This book provides guidance on setting up and monitoring poetry projects for people living with dementia in group care homes and individual families. It explains the benefits of creative expression for people with dementia, and shows how to facilitate poetry reading and writing groups in different environments.Specific techniques for introducing poetry to older people can be employed by family members or professional care staff to enhance the wellbeing of the individual living with dementia. The ethical issues of running poetry projects in dementia care are explored along with examples of poetry produced by individuals and groups, interviews with care workers, and case studies.

Available from the Dementia Australia library in hard copy or Ebook


forget-me-nots-2017Forget-me-nots = Spominčice  /  Danijela Hliš ; editor, Blaž Propótnik ; illustrations, Stephen Wilson.  (2017)

A bilingual collection of poems and stories about living with dementia, written by author Danijela Hlis.
The book titled Forget me nots/Spomincice is written in Slovenian and English and it has received a grant from the Slovenian Ministry of Arts and Culture.
With 45 years of writing behind her and two previous published books, (Hideaway Serenade and Whisper), Danijela has used her writing talents as well as her experiences with people living with dementia to produce the new book.
For bilingual individuals living with dementia, reversion to their first language is common. Without support and engagement tailored to the individual’s language and culture, communication difficulties and isolation can occur.

Available from the Dementia Australia library


memory weaving_webMemory weaving: an anthology of dementia journeys  /  edited by Carolyn Vimpani  (2014)

The threads of each of our lives are woven to form unique personal memories, our stories.  With the onset of dementia these threads become tangled and frayed forming unfamiliar designs interwoven with strands collected from yesterday’s fragmented recollections and today’s confusing encounters.
If you have or care for someone with dementia, you will find your own experiences in this anthology.  If you want family and friends to understand the journey you and the one you love are making, give them this book!’ (from the cover)

Available from the Dementia Australia library


love-life-loss-v2Love Life Loss – A Roller Coaster of Poetry Volume 2 : Days with Dementia / Kate Swaffer (2016)

“What do you do with a diagnosis of dementia? And especially younger-onset dementia? in this second volume of poetry, Kate Swaffer responds with love, life and torrents of words. Some of the words show loneliness and fear, exclusion, apprehension. But her strong theme is how to be a vigorous involved participant in the world of light, gardens, cats and, above all, people. Her poems affirm ‘believe you can when others say you can’t’. And on behalf of people with dementia, ‘we are all real!’ ‘Like a good red wine or an old red rose’, these poems are full of wisdom, understanding and a view of the world from someone with dementia, living through dementia but also above dementia.” – Emeritus Professor Roly Sussex

Available from the Dementia Australia library


brainisaboundaryThe Brain is a Boundary : A Journey in Poems to the Boundaries of Lewy Body Dementia  /  By Alexander Dreier , Introduction by Arthur G. Zajonc  (2016)

There are many boundaries in consciousness, such as those between waking and sleeping, language and reality, life and death, observer and observed.
Alexander Dreier, an author, poet, comedian and student of human consciousness, was diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia. This unique collection of poems explores crossing boundaries in a brilliant and moving way, recording the author’s journey over the boundary from one existance to another.
The book includes an introduction by Arthur Zajonc, the former President of the Mind-Life Institute.
Available from the Dementia Australia library


articles_finalGaps and spaces: Representations of dementia in contemporary British poetry  /  Hannah Zeilig in Dementia: The international journal of social research and practice, Volume 13, Number 2, March 2014
This article considers the work of a number of contemporary British poets who have attempted to articulate some of the experiences that dementia entails. The unique potential of poetry as a means of portraying the dislocations and reinventions of self that dementia involves has been mostly overlooked. The insights offered by critical gerontology are central to this article. This perspective calls for critical thought about the ways in which dementia has been socially constructed. The challenges posed by poets such as Vuyelwa Carlin, Valerie Laws and Jo Shapcott in particular, are examined. The complex poetic representations offered by these poets acknowledge the pathological declines of dementia and simultaneously celebrate the individuality and life of their subjects. Considering dementia with reference to the work of contemporary poets and critical gerontology is one way in which we can deepen our understanding of what this illness involves and humanise those who suffer from it.
Request from the Dementia Australia library

Healing words: A study of poetry interventions in dementia care / Aagje M.C. Swinnen in Dementia: The international journal of social research and practice,
Vol 15, Issue 6, pp. 1377 – 1404

This article focuses on poetry interventions as one example of cultural arts interventions. The use of poetry might seem counterintuitive, given that people with dementia lose their language abilities and that poetry is regarded to be the most complex literary form. The author argues that expanding on existing research on poetry interventions from a health and science perspective with a humanities approach will help illuminate how poetry works to enhance the exchange with people with dementia. Drawing on participant observations of poetry interventions by Gary Glazner (Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, USA) at the New York Memory Center, the author frames poetry interventions as a specific form of oral poetry in which people with dementia are positioned as cocreators of embodied texts and directly benefit from the power of the spoken word.
Request from the Dementia Australia library

 

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