This website is intended primarily to help people establish poetry programs for the aged in their communities.
For the past four years or so I have given poetry presentations, with accompanying Powerpoint pictures, to two separate groups of elderly and disabled residents at a well-respected nursing home/short-stay rehabilitation facility in Westchester County, New York. My experience presenting poetry to the elderly, and its beneficial effects, is discussed in A poetry program for the very elderly — Narrative perspective on one therapeutic model,” Vol. 27, Journal of Poetry Therapy, Issue 1 (March 2014).
As discussed in detail in that article, I have developed a model and curriculum for one kind of a poetry program for the elderly that seems to have therapeutic value. This website makes that curriculum public, in the hope that others will make use of it.
Almost all those monthly presentations to the elderly are organized around a general theme or subject. The first February I began doing this, around Valentine’s Day, we listened to love poems. In March, we listened to nineteenth-century “Americana.” In April, the theme was Spring. In May, it was food. In June, marriage. In July, America. Then came three sessions on life stages –from babyhood through high school, the world of work, and post-work. Then the American West and manhood, then protest poetry. Then a session on Jewish poetry, followed by a session on Muslim poetry. After that, night, prayer and miracles, family, travel, animals, music, New York City, water, other souls, weather, success/failure, birds, and so on. And, of course, every December, The Holiday Spectacular (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year).
Each theme is merely a vehicle for presenting poetry that speaks to significant issues, such as hope and courage, loss and trust, belonging and love, the amazingness of the commonplace, and gratitude.
My experience over the past several years working with poetry and the aged suggests that even quite compromised elders can benefit from this kind of poetry program. I therefore ended the article referenced above by urging people who care for the elderly, whether professionally or on a purely personal level, to include poetry as part of that care, and by urging others to consider starting such a poetry program for the elderly in their communities.
To assist people in doing just that, the first part of this website identifies each of my monthly presentations and the poems in each presentation, and I invite you to do what I have been doing, or your own variation of it.
Anyone who takes me up on that invitation becomes a member of the nascent “Have Poems, Will Recite” movement. And the first dozen ‘charter members’ are entitled to a nifty personalized, Paladin commemorative, non-business card such as that pictured above.
The second part of this website concerns preparation for one’s own death.
Death is not one of the subjects of my monthly presentations to the elderly — although some of the poems included in the presentations certainly are relevant to death. As Emily Dickinson advises:
Tell all the truth but tell it slant
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind
Nevertheless there are times when more directness is called for. As explained at the beginning of the second part of this website, a friend in need read the poetry program article referenced above and then asked me to address directly for her the subject of preparation for death.
I found, when searching for relevant poetic material on that forbidding subject, that there are many books and readings available that concern preparation for, or dealing with, someone else’s death. But I found very little marshaling of material concerning preparing for one’s own death.
I hope what I have gathered and made available in the second part of this website is a helpful contribution to that need.
I also have presentations concerning other subjects that are not discussed in this website.
I am interested in southern Spain during the period 711-1492 — al-Andalus as it was known at the time — and particularly in the relations between the ruling Muslim community and the Christian and Jewish communities there. I have a presentation of Jewish (i.e., Hebrew) poetry during that time and place and another of Muslim (i.e., Arabic) poetry in al-Andalus. With grateful attributions to Princeton Professor Peter Cole and to the late Yale Professor Maria Menocal, those presentations also address the cultural context of that poetry and discuss how that Hebrew Golden Age poetry arose from, and is indebted to, the great Arab poetic tradition, including Muslim poetry in Baghdad and in al-Andalus.
I also have a presentation of children’s poetry.
And for those who think they do not like poetry, I have a poetry presentation on baseball and another on sex. But, guys, you don’t get to see the pictures if you don’t listen to the poems.
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I am not a poet, or a professor of English, or a doctor, or a social worker, or a psychologist or psychiatrist. Nor am I (as regards the presentations of Muslim and Jewish poetry) a religious figure or a professor of religious studies, or professor of history or of political science. What I am is acutely aware of the immensity of what I do not know. I am also aware that, as one poet put it, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
However, it seems that the subjects of this website have received little attention in the literature, and I do have some experience with the very aged, and some as well with death.
Moreover, no one can rightly claim to know how best to comfort and perhaps inspire the hearts and minds of the very elderly, or how to help someone prepare for death. There undoubtedly is no one way.