“Poetry is affirmative. It is healing,” says Madison’s third Poet Laureate (2008-2011) Fabu Carter. “It is also a useful life tool when it comes to preserving memory.”
For decades and decades, Carter, who is well known professionally as “Fabu,” has been a poet, columnist, storyteller, and educator here in Madison and has brought joy to young and old alike with her poetic talents. As a literary artist, she creates and shares writing that reflects her life spent in Memphis, Tennessee; Nairobi; Kenya and here in Madison.
On Monday, Oct. 16, at the Central Library in downtown Madison, Fabu’s talents will be on display as she will be hosting a Poetry Party that will be a celebration of arts for people living with memory loss and their families. Gary Glazner, founder and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP), will join Fabu to read classic, well-loved poems and poems written by those with living with memory loss. A highlight of the Poetry Party event will be the creation of an original poem by the poets and the audience.
“Gary Glazner, who is from New York, has a program called the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and what he does in Madison and around the country and internationally is he uses poetry to ignite people’s memory,” Fabu tells Madison365. “So for elders who came from the generation who memorized poetry, it really is a wonderful thing to go and work with them and use poetry as a way to give them a sense of accomplishment because they are struggling with memory loss.”
Glazner founded the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP) in 2003 and to date has held programming in 23 states and internationally in Australia, Germany, Poland and South Korea. The APP performs and creates poetry with people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. The APP was awarded the 2012 MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership Award in the category of Community Engagement.
“This event will be a great opportunity for them to remember poems, for them to confirm them, and to create a beautiful poem together,” Fabu says. “It lets them know that they can still create in this world. That’s the basis. Gary Glazner uses poetry to really assist those elders with memory loss.”
Fabu is the outreach specialist of the Geriatrics and Gerontology for the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and goes to five different senior housing and assisted living facility where she works with people to compose poems together. “We talk about the poem that we have written and we talk about poetry in general including familiar poems that they know and poets that they love,” Fabu says.
Part of the work that Fabu does for the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease and Research Center is to recruit African-American elders for the research. The impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the African-American community has been immense. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, African Americans face a twofold higher risk of developing late-onset disease than whites and are less likely to be diagnosed at an early stage of disease, resulting in less time for treatment and planning.
“As of today, African Americans lead in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Another sad thing about it is that we get diagnosed much later than other people. So educational outreach is very important,” Fabu says. “After African-Americans come Latinos [on the at-risk list]. So, it’s really important to do everything we can to support people who are struggling with any form of memory loss.
“As an outreach specialist you’re always giving the dire news, but with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project you can look at another way to be supportive to people who have memory loss,” Fabu adds.
When Fabu meets with elders, they give her a line on an agreed topic and then they compose a new poem together.
“I love this generation and the fact that they memorized poems. I just find – especially in elders over 65 – this beautiful ability to call up poems,” says Fabu, who has published Poems, Dreams and Roses, In Our Own Tongues and Journey to Wisconsin: African American Life in Haiku. Journey to Wisconsin won Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the Wisconsin Library Association back in 2012. “They might not be able to remember other significant dates, but they remember the poems that they memorized as children and it is healing from a standpoint that you are realizing that your memory is not all gone but also that you’re still a creative person. And you can use this as a basis to create new poetry.”
Monday’s Poetry Party event is an invitation to the public to one, bring a favorite poem and recite it or two, be in the audience for poets, some of whom struggle with memory loss, who will share their original poetry,” Fabu adds. “We will have a Spanish-speaking poet that will be there, too.”
The Poetry Party is funded in part by the Helen Bader Foundation and the Poetry Foundation. There will be refreshments and the event is free. “The event is open to everyone. We’d like to invite the public,” Fabu says.
“It’s really great for just affirming people and their poetry at this later stage in life,” Fabu continues. “It’s really important to come out and celebrate poetry but to also come out and celebrate these elders who love poetry and to affirm them as they share their original poetry.”
The Poetry Party will take place Monday, Oct. 16, 10-11:30 a.m. at the Central Library, 201 W Mifflin Street. Fruit, pastries, coffee and juice will be served. For more information, contact Fabu at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need transportation to this event, e-mail Fabu and she will arrange it.