Sunday, June 10, 2012

Poesia y Dichos for Latinos Living with Dementia

Introducing today's La Bloga Guest Columnist Gary Glazner discussing the importance of poesia y dichos at the Latino Geriatric Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Hi!  I am Gary Glazner founder of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project (APP). I am excited to be a guest columnist at La Bloga and to write about my passion of performing and creating poetry with people living with dementia.

One of the groups I have had the honor of working with is the Latino Geriatric Center in Milwaukee. A core of the APP is to use poetry that people living with dementia might have learned as children. When working with a Spanish speaking community we have had success using dichos.

Nelva Olin, the Adult Day Care, Program Coordinator led our first session. She began by using the APP technique of call and response. The session leader says a line of the dicho and has the group echo the lines after her. It is key to say the lines with enthusiasm and clarity and to get the group to match your level of energy. Nelva recited and the group responded:

Pan es pan, queso es queso
no hay amor sino hay un beso.

Nelva Olin
Al Castor, the Program Director, remembered hearing that particular dicho as a child and that his sisters had used it as a rhyme to jump rope. Once saying the dicho and laughing at the words warmed up the group, Nelva continued by asking each person to talk about their first kiss. This led to an enthusiastic response from each of the 12 participants. It seems each person has a story about his or her first kiss. The stories and the laughter were contagious.

Here is the poem the group created. Ruth Fuentes the Latino Geriatric Center Nurse translated it into English.

El Beso

Pan es pan
Queso es queso
No hay amor
Si no hay besos.

Cuando no hay pan
Y no hay queso
Si no hay cariño o besos
No hay queso, ni besos, ni amor
… y no hay vino…

Cuando era niña ella recuerda
Que pedía a sus padres
Un pedacito de pan o queso
Pero no podían porque eran pobres,
Pero amor siempre le daban.

Amor es más grande que el pan y queso…
Recuerdo que fui a una tienda
No había ni pan ni queso
Pero encontré una novia y le di un beso.

Algunas no dan besos,
Es mas aun desprecian
Nunca tuve amor de nadie
Excepto por el poco cariño de mi madre.

Mi madre me dijo un día
Te doy pan y te doy queso
Si no te comes todo eso
No te doy un beso.

Lo que quiere decir que
 Cuando tienes novio
Y no le das un beso
No habrá pan tampoco.

Cuando uno es quinceañero
Uno se ilusiona a los 14, 15 o 16…
Pero a los 18 ya se sabe
Que si dices si o no…
Y te comes el biscocho.

Participant at the Latino Geriatric Center

The Kiss

Bread is bread
Cheese is cheese
There is no love
If we don’t kiss.

When there is no bread
There is no cheese,
There are neither kisses nor love
There is no cheese, no love, and no kisses
… nor there is wine…

She remembered that as a child
She asked her parents for bread and cheese
There was no bread or cheese to give
But love they always give.

Love is greater than bread and cheese…
I remember going to the store
There was no bread or cheese
But I found love and a girl to kiss.

Some girls don’t kiss me anymore
Some even disregard me.
I feel like no one loved me
Except for my mother’s love.

My mother told me once
“I’ll give you bread and cheese
But if you don’t eat them all
I won’t even give you a kiss.”

This means that…
When you have a boyfriend
And don’t kiss him
There’ll be no bread either.

When one is a teenager…
You are a dreamer at 14, 15 and 16
But at 18 you already know
Whether to say yes or no
and when you can eat your dessert.

Here is project artist Xavier Ortells on using Spanish with people living with dementia:

More info on the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project at:

The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project is happy to announce the publication of Nútreme Hoy (Nurture me today). Our new Spanish language anthology contains: 50 poems and Dichos; essays on how to use poetry to connect to people living with dementia; and how to create a poetry program.

Here is a link to Gary Glazner performing a poem inspired by Federico Garcia Lorca: CLICK HERE

Gary Glazner

Gary Glazner is the founder and Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project, (APP). The National Endowment for the Arts listed the APP as a “best practice” for their Arts and Aging initiative. NBC's “Today” show, NPR's “All Things Considered” and Voice of America have featured segments on Glazner’s work. 
Harper Collins, W.W. Norton and have published his work. Glazner has worked with many institutions using their art to inspire the performance and creation of poetry by people living with memory loss including the Museum of Modern Art. In 2010, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin funded a pilot project for the APP in Germany.  This work has led to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw funding a pilot project for the APP in Poland in 2012.

In 1990, working with Marc Smith the inventor of the Poetry Slam, a performance poetry competition, Glazner produced the first National Poetry Slam, which was held in San Francisco. This annual event is now in its 23rd year. To date the APP has held programming in 23 states and served over 10,000 people living with dementia. The Alzheimer's Poetry Project was awarded the 2012 MetLife Foundation Creativity and Aging in America Leadership Award in the category of Community Engagement.

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