What is Poetry Facilitation?
At it’s most basic, poetry facilitation is the process of utilizing memory-activating techniques and poetry recitation to initiate conversation with participants. Through the conversation, (even bits and pieces of conversation, as is often the case with dementia patients), the poetry facilitator is able to help participants create on-the-spot poems.
It’s nothing short of magical.
During a one hour Mind’s Eye Poetry facilitation, I am able to write three to six poems with my poet/patients. I often work with folks in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease who have not spoken in days or even weeks. During the facilitation, it is not uncommon for them to suddenly “wake up” and begin adding relevant words, phrases, and even complete memories to the conversation. When I see the astounded expression on the faces of the regular caregivers, I know something remarkable has happened. Even for a word person, it is hard for me to explain the wonder of poetry facilitation, and its therapeutic benefits. The process is joy-producing, intellectually challenging, and empowering. People with dementia are so accustomed to being reminded of what they can’t do, that experiencing success at something as rewarding as creating art is profoundly empowering. It is not uncommon to see tears of joy streaming down the faces of participants as I read their poems back to them.
An engineer-turned-poet named my business!
The Mind’s Eye process seems to stimulate the brain in ways that regular conversation does not. One gentleman I had the pleasure of working with at an Alzheimer’s Conference in Dallas told me that he wasn’t creative, never had been, and it would be “a miracle” if he wrote a poem with me. “I’m an engineer. I don’t do poetry!” He was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He knew he was forgetting, but he was adamant about poetry. “Don’t like it. Won’t do it.” I assured him he would surprise himself and maybe even have a little fun. He reluctantly agreed to try. As part of the facilitation process, I asked him to close his eyes while I recited several poems. When I was finished, he opened his eyes and with a look of amazement said, “When you read poems, it’s like I have an eye in my mind that sees pictures.” That’s how Mind’s Eye Poetry was named—by the process itself and by a reluctant engineer-turned-poet. Pretty cool.
Traces of summer
giving way to fall’s palette,
silence painting the forest floor.
--Respite Care Participants, Price Conference
Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Dallas
© Mind’s Eye Poetry, 2013. All rights reserved.