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About the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

Posted: Mon, October 28, 2013 | By:

About the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project The mission of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project is to facilitate the creativity of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. We engage people navigating memory loss in an exciting call and response performance during the first half of the workshop. The session leader recites lines of classic, well-loved poems and the group joins together in echoing the words. During the second half of the workshop the well-known poems serve as inspiration and models for a communal creation of an original poem. Each session ends with a performance of the group’s newly created poem, giving recognition to the lines and words the participants have contributed.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Eagle

We seek to bond together as a community built on shared words, passions, and discoveries through the performance and creation of poetry. The National Endowment for the Arts listed the APP as a best practice for the NEA Arts and Aging initiative. The APP was awarded the 2012 MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership award in the category of Community.

Poet Gary Glazner founded the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in 2004 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The APP has held 300 programming sessions at over 100 facilities in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington DC and Wisconsin and internationally in Germany and Poland serving over 15,000 people living with Alzheimer’s disease. APP has given staff training for over 1,500 health care workers and family members in using poetry with dementia.

What people are saying about the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project for the work you are doing on behalf of Alzheimer’s patients and their families. -Mrs. Nancy Regan

“Glazner whirled around the circle, repeating the stanza and hopping from one foot to the other. As he passed each person he pumped their hands up and down to the rhythm of the chant. And as he passed, he also pumped life into their faces. Formerly somber expressions became animated. Hands clapped. Feet stomped. Eyes shone with humor, recognition and, later in the hour tears.” -Northwest Arkansas Times

Here is what Brittany Whitmore, age 16, said about working with the APP, “Working with the Alzheimer’s people made me think how poetry can help people remember things. At first it was scary, but after I got used to them, it was fun, but it also made me cry.”

While the people we serve often are in late stage Alzheimer’s disease and have limited language ability, here is what Wilma from a facility in Oklahoma said at the end of a poetry session, “Thank you so much for coming. We need people like you to come here. It’s not that we’re not happy. This is a good place. It’s just that we need more.”

Lesley Halliday, of Isabella Geriatric in New York City states, “The use of poetry to stimulate memory appears to be something all the participants can relate to. The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project helps with more that just memory, your program also promotes participants’ self esteem and social skills.”

“Their effect really brightened. They smiled. Many of them began to move with the beat of the poem, which was exciting. Many of them responded with touch. They’d reach out and hold his hand as he approached them.” - Dr. Kristen Sorocco

Gary Glazner. photo credit Mike McGee
Gary Glazner. photo credit Mike McGee

About Gary Glazner

Photo credit: Mike McGee

Gary Glazner is the founder and Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP). NBC’s Today show and NPR’s Weekend Edition, Voice of America, and New Zealand National Radio have all featured segments on the APP. These broadcasts and news stories have reached over 20 million people and have helped keep the issue of quality, innovative care for people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the public’s mind. Harper Collins, W.W. Norton and have published his work. Glazner was the Managing Director of Bowery Arts and Science, the non-profit wing of the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, 2007 to 2010.

His poetry performances have been featured on CNN, NPR and underwater on the Bay Area Rapid Transit System. Glazner was the poet-in-residence and coach of the Percission Poetry Drill Team at Desert Academy in Santa Fe, 2005-06. He edited the “Word Art: Poetry Broadside Series,” at the Palace of the Governors Museum, where he learned to set type and crank the old printing presses. He is the author of Ears on Fire: Snapshot Essays in a World of Poets published on La Alameda Press. The book chronicles a year abroad in Asia and Europe meeting poets, working on translations and writing poems. Glazner is the author of How to Make a Living as a Poet on Soft Skull Press.

Glazner along with co-producer Don McIver were the winners of the 2004 Special Merit Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, for “The Poetry of Vietnam,” which was broadcast on KUNM in Albuquerque. Glazner was the host of “Poetry Talk,” on KSFR in Santa Fe, 2005-07. In 1990, Glazner produced the first National Poetry Slam in San Francisco.

Denise Kusel, of The Santa Fe New Mexican says, “Poet Gary Glazner belies a mild-manner with an in-your-face delivery. He shouts. He postures. He’s a madman, insisting you get it–all of it. Because he holds nothing back he’s insightful and dangerous, as only a good poet can be.”


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