Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Wonder blunder and n + 7 therapies

              [At Hamilton Library, UHM, 8/2011--with no change since]

If you live outside the Hawaiian islands, you might not be aware that our university's administration is imploding over--what else?--a Stevie Wonder concert that never happened. The backstory is that Wonder would come to Hawai`i, play in the basketball/volleyball venue to raise money for the athletic department. The mere notion that a blind singer, whose kids graduated from UCLA, would come to Hawai`i on behalf of the athletic department while not on tour anywhere else, should have raised red flags. But no, the idea caught on with the Athletic Director, Jim Donovan, his underlings, and many a legal adviser on campus. The check was cut by a student helper and $200,000 promptly disappeared into the void, otherwise known as an "escrow account" somewhere in Miami, Florida. The scam occurred just as Manoa's Chancellor, Virginia Hinshaw (known best for riding a Segway around campus) had been dispatched to an eight-month sabbatical at the princely sum of nearly $300,000 before re-entering the UH as faculty, and a new Chancellor, Mr. Tom Apple of Delaware, had assumed the reins of power. He or someone near him had the bright idea of firing the AD, Mr. Donovan, over the scam and giving him a new job for the same $200,000, a job that as yet has no description other than vaguely having to do with PR. That was before Pres. Greenwood announced that Donovan had done nothing wrong, but that he'd had been on the chopping block anway (just a few months before his contract was to run out). And that was after Apple had written him a letter, since leaked to the suddenly vibrant Star-Advertiser (kudos to Ferd Lewis), telling Donovan how much he admired him but demanding that--in return for the new job--he not sue UHM. Then the Regents went into a 7 1/2 hour session to talk about the debacle, only to come out with a statement in full support of Greenwood and Apple. Pres. Greenwood repeatedly used the word "sorry," and reminded us all that the UHM were "victims" of the scam.

It's a very sad and sorry story, indeed. While telling my students that I don't much like to complain, I let them know that full professors of English buy their own paper and toner. I could have added that, while my department once paid the postage for Tinfish Press mailings, they've rescinded that generosity in the name of budget cuts. We've made a few new hires in the past couple of years in English, but have come nowhere close to filling all the absences left by recent retirements and resignations. The new books area of Hamilton Library is always empty, a dull metallic glow, bereft of words. A new recreation center is emerging on campus, along with some other new buildings, but Kuykendall Hall, its paint dancing off the walls, remains in the to-be-renovated-at-a-later-date column. Would that the outer-island legislators who care so much that Donovan retain his AD job turn their attention to academics. Fat chance. Football builds machismo, but academics are for sissies.

Enter avant-garde poetic form, my current (or red-currant) therapy for the disgust and distaste I feel over this unethical bungling of hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be used better toward actual (sigh) higher education. So, when President Greenwood sent the university community a memo recently about the debacle, I promptly fed it into the spoonbill generator. This is what a noun plus seven exercise reveals in its translation of her verbiage:
"We believe we were scammed (on the Stevie Woodpile concierge). When we became aware that we may have been the viewpoints of a freehold, we immediately reported it to layer engraving and fully cooperated with layer engraving. We also initiated our own internal invite. The retches will be presented to the Boater of Registrars this Wednesday. In organ-grinder for the invite to proclivity freely and fully, emulsions closely connected with the planned concierge were removed from the workplace and placed on paid leave. Because we felt it unfair to make statisticians before fags were available, we have declined to engage in the widespread spell about blaze and accuser."

Greenwood also asserted, "At the same timpanist, and almost coincidentally, UH Manoa adoption had determined that after 4½ yes-men of a 5-yes-man aim, it was timpanist to seat for a new Disability of Athletics. Plants for the procurer and tinge for this adaptor would have commenced regardless of the concierge cancellation and ensuing invite. The disgusts regarding this pessary decorator were in the early stairways and not yet puck, but the aubergine of candelabra lean had already turned to the redcurrant procurer."
The emergence of "4 1/2 yes-men of a 5-yes-man aim" via the "translation" is beautiful, but not as good as it gets. With UHM admin, the good eventually becomes sublime. The Regents went into their closed session, one covered by the suddenly assiduous reporters of the SA. Here's their report, which has survived the money-wall at the paper. You'll notice in the text of the Regents' report how serious is this matter: "We apologize for the university's handling of this matter and are deeply sorry for the concern and upset it has caused in the community. We approve the release today of the redacted report of the investigation and the key findings of the investigation. The report shows a failure of management in the Athletics Department and additional issues with financial controls at several levels." It's redacted! (According to Ian Lind, such redactions violate state law.) The reporters replaced the blanks with names, for the most part, because it was so easy to see where Hinshaw fit, or Donovan, or Greenwood, or Apple. Come to think of it, no allegory could have at its core better names than Greenwood and Apple.

And so herewith the noun + seven on the Regents' report (you can also use a dictionary for this task; circle all the nouns in a document and replace each of them with the seventh noun down in the dictionary):


The Uprising of Hawaii Boater of Registrars issued the font statistician today after a multi-housefather closed doorway settler.

We apologize for the uprising's handling

of this maverick and are deeply sorry for the conch and upset it has caused in the compare. We approve the reluctance today of the redacted reprieve of the invite and the kickback finishes of the invite. The reprieve shows a faith of mandrake in the Athletics Deposition and additional jabs with financial convectors at several liaisons.

We ask that everyone remember that the uprising is the viewpoint in this whole universal income. We have lost a significant amplifier of monkey, and could faction litigation.

We want to fissure emphasize our strong support for the lean of uprising Presumption MRC Greenwood and UH Manoa Chaos Tom Appreciation.

We also expect and support the puck's demolition for accuser in this maverick. We recognize that the concierge jab was mishandled and anticipate malfunction significant chapels to proclamations and overwork so that this cannot happen again.

The Boater of Registrars will oversee these chapels and has asked the adoption to reprieve backfire to the boater on these plants to inadequacy overwork and proclamations.

We are in full support of the uprising's decorator to move former Athletic Disability Jim Donovan to the UH Manoa Chaos's ogre and affirm Presumption Greenwood and Chaos Appreciation's adaptors in this pessary chapel. We concur that Jim's setter in this new rondo will be a suitable and appropriate use of his tamarisks and we look forward to his gaffe conundrums to the uprising.

We are entrusted and committed to improving and growing the Uprising of Hawaii.

Sovereignty: Uprising of Hawaii Extraterrestrial Affinities
Especially apt here is that final line, which grows out of Source: University of Hawaii External Affairs. Apt because sovereignty is such a live issue in Hawai`i. Apt because we need an uprising.  Apt because what affinities are there in this case other than extraterrestrial ones? An email from one of the AD's colleagues, Mr. Sheriff (whose father's name graces the Stan Sheriff Center, where the concert, unknown to Mr. Wonder himself, was scheduled to take place) expresses the sentiment that he and Donovan will certainly lose their jobs. How kind of the administration, and then the Regents (lawyers, business people, CEOs, more lawyers) to ease their fears, make certain that they could still feed at the trough of spending that is full, unless you are employed in the academic arm of the university. 

Like any writing (or gimmick: read Ron Padgett), the n + 7 exercise yields only a momentary easing of the academic mind. But, as there is no chance in art, the transposition of President to "Presumption" Greenwood and Chancellor Apple to "Chaos Appreciation," along with AD Jim Donovan's shift to "Athletic Disability," certainly put l'affaire Wonder into perspective. (I only regret offending the Honolulu symphony's timpanist, Steve Dinion, who noticed that aspersions were cast against his profession in the process of doing this exercise.)

Let's clean house and turn our attention to education.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

On planning a course on Alzheimer's literature &

When I said I write about Alzheimer's, Prof. Jon Goldberg-Hiller of Political Science quickly shot me a note. "Catherine Malabou, The New Wounded," it read in cramped handwriting (I thought the name was Maladou, which echoes the illness, the malady). The argument of this book, now in front of me, is at once astonishing and obvious. While her thinking is not all about Alzheimer's, it comes of her experience of her grandmother's disappearance into dementia: "it seemed to me that my grandmother, or at least, the new and ultimate version of her, was the work of the disease, its opus, its own sculpture." This early assertion brings Alzheimer's and art together, but as a form of destruction, not construction. "Behind the familiar halo of hair, the tone of her voice, the blue of her eyes: the absolutely incontestable presence of someone else" (xi).

The larger ambition of Malabou's book is to shift psychoanalysis away from a Freudian model, built on sexuality and a belief in the continuity of self, toward a model based on "cerebrality," or cognition, affect. This model shifts emphasis from the mind as an internal engine separated from the outside, toward one where the brain/mind is susceptible to outside forces, accidents, illnesses. Where the self can change irrevocably. Where my mother, your mother, is not a constant but someone whose identity can change "before your eyes" (my phrasing). As Malabou begins to develop this model, she pauses to reflect on connections between brain injury and political trauma, discovering "the impossibility of separating the effects of political trauma from the effects of organic trauma." As someone who linked my mother's Alzheimer's to the effects of the Bush administrations lies-unto-war, this more intimate link makes sense. Mine was a metaphor; hers is closer to fact. The trauma of that time (including the shock of 9/11) in the USA can be linked to organic dementia, or so Malabou's argument suggests. To say nothing of all the anguish that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A subject who has become someone else (15). That, then, is what is at stake in a course on writing Alzheimer's, along with more practical concerns of caregiving, legal definitions of competency, and the architecture of Alzheimer's homes, among others. (There will be visiting speakers and, I hope, a co-instructor, Prof. Lori Yancura, of Family Resources.) Malabou puts it beautifully, when she describes this process of becoming someone else "not as absence of form but as the form of its absence" (18). Yet, as I found during my time in my mother's Alzheimer's home, that absence is hardly without content--it's full of events and crises and calling out for reasons why we are there, why we are not in our homes, as opposed to the home. The competent writer may be embarked on a search for meaning, but so too are the residents, at least until they lose the language by which to express such longings (and perhaps also the longings themselves?)

Here is a course description with list of readings, so far. I've stolen the title of Lauren Berlant's symposium of last November at the University of Chicago, Losing It, which has the virtues of wit and range.

Prof. Susan M. Schultz (English)
Prof. Lori Yancura (Family Resources)
Spring, 2014

Losing It: Dementia and Questions of Self in Literature & Family Relations

This interdisciplinary honors course will pose the following questions: who is (still) human? Who is competent according to the law? Who cares for the incompetent? What is the politics of care? How can we best write about dementia? How do writers use dementia to reflect on other concerns, public and private? What is the architecture of the care home? Why structure the care home that way? Who grieves, and for how long, when the person who is lost is still alive? We will ponder these questions through the (chaotic) frame of dementia and Alzheimer’s, reading literature by and about Alzheimer’s sufferers; we will also address issues of biology and caregiving. Students will be expected to write two essays, contribute to a class blog, and do a final project that (to some extent) combines the concerns of the course.

There will be guest presenters and speakers throughout the semester, as well as a field trip to an Alzheimer’s care home.

Readings will include (on the literary side):

--excerpts from Self, Senility, and Alzheimer’s Disease in Modern America by Jesse Ballenger (history) and from Catherine Malabou, The New Wounded (philosophy)

--Thomas DeBaggio, Losing My Mind (memoir)

--Samuel Beckett, Rockaby, Footfalls, Eh Joe (on YouTube)

--Walter Mosley, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

--Jennifer Montgomery, The Agonal Phase (video)

--Poetry (Shi), Korean film

How I'd love to include novels by B.S. Johnson, Alice LaPlante, David Chariandy, and Annie Ernaux, and poems by George Oppen, Julie Carr and others.

But for now, back to courses on poetic form and documentary writing for this semester . . .

Note: Many thanks to Shantel Grace for writing about this blog in the Honolulu Weekly's "Best of" issue.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog

I stopped blogging this summer. Not by intention, but because I found myself working on projects that didn't lend themselves to blogging. But is that true? Certainly in the Spring, when I was writing for jacket2, the blogging model--write and edit at nearly the same time, then "publish"--was in effect, despite the sensitivity of the material, mostly having to do with Hawai`i's literary politics. So why not-blog? If there are answers, aside from the obvious--getting out of the habit (in more than one way, perhaps)--then they may have to do with questions of time more than of content. Or of how time comes to be content. (I suppose both pronunciations of that last word might apply.)

Blogging is a form that lends itself to honoring the moment as it occurs. When I made books out of my blog posts, I edited a lot out, but never added words, thoughts, exposition. There's an honesty to the present that ought not be altered through future tweaking, unless that becomes another post for another moment. In writing about my mother's condition, I found that Alzheimer's lives only in the present; to write about it otherwise felt less than honest. My problem with Alzheimer's books is more than that they are usually more about the caregiver than about the person with the illness; it's that they are retrospective. Alzheimer's is the disease that erases retrospection, not one that calls for it. My memory cards are also involved in the moment of composition, even as their obsessions are with the past, how it enters the present abruptly, sometimes overwhelming it. These decayed epiphanies comes as much out of forgetting as they do remembering. If your muse forgets, then allowing for those absences of language, event, affect, all matter, even if they are located in the immaterial gaps between sentences. A conceptual Garrett Stewart thesis applies, where it's not the sounds of the words that elide, meaning more than two separate words can. The gaps, whether in blogging or in writing memory cards, create meaning when two moments come together in space, if not time. This is a bit like Ron Silliman's idea of torque, except it de-emphasizes parataxis in favor of conjunctions between seemingly unattached elements.

This summer's projects developed otherwise. One, editing a posthumous collection of poetry by Steve Shrader, a poet who lived for over three decades in Waimānalo, writing amazing, Ashberyesque poems near the end of his life in 2007, turned into a sleuthing project. Shrader, famous among his friends for the precision of his work as a graphic designer, artist, and photographer, left no indication (except one date at the end of a single poem) as to when he had written these pieces. Wanting to find out when and where he wrote the poems, I began driving around O`ahu, talking to his friends, looking at places where he'd lived and worked, trying to reconstruct a time frame. What I found were people summoning up the past--one friend of Shrader's wrote afterward to say that our visit had stirred up his memories, his anger at his friend's leaving him--into a present that doesn't yet exist, that of the poems set inside the covers of a book. Research is what comes between. I could have blogged about that process, but his friends were talking to me, not into a public space that they will enter only much later. While I often want to tell my students that their ethical stipulations about using others' voices are too strong, provide cover narratives for anxieties having little to do with their subject, in this case, I wanted to give these voices their privacy. At least for now.

The second project was to put together an anthology of poetry (and some prose) by white poets in Hawai`i. (I'm calling them Euro-American, because that emphasizes an ethnic, historical background to whiteness.) There's a tenderness to that topic (as in a bruise that's easily poked) that made me want to weigh every word before I set it down, or after I set it down, then threw it across the room like a pitch by a closer with two men on and no outs in the 9th inning. Considering the colonial history of this place, to use a verb like "discover," even when it means "I've discovered where I want to live," can be problematic. There's a reason why we no longer celebrate "Discoverers' Day" in Hawai`i. Tone was an issue, too. The rhetoric (mine and the contributors') could not be angry, needed to be even, fair, self-reflexive. But it also needed to be honest. So the work of balancing flashes of frustration with a sense of our moving toward a constructive goal--alerting readers to the fact that a lot of really good white writers have written in and about Hawai`i, and that their work has been shaped in myriad ways by their experiences of living here--was not easy. While the Shrader project ostensibly recovers a past for readers of poetry inside and outside Hawai`i, as well as showing how radically different traditions can be joined together, the anthology is future-directed. My utopian goal (by now I know it's good to have them, but not to fret too much over the disappointments of not arriving) is to shift the direction of local and Hawai`i writing, to make it--counter-intuitively, considering the limitations of ethnic categories--more open. The projects do come together as a vision of what might be added to Hawai`i's literature. My phrase for this act of editing something into the world is "positive critique." But the time sense involved in these two projects moves in different directions: we look to the past in order to map possible futures. The present, or what might otherwise be blogged, is less crucial to these projects than was the work on Alzheimer's.

The anthology is now with our designer, Allison Hanabusa (who mercifully, perhaps, doesn't fit our category); the Shrader volume will get going quickly once we have the digital copies of his poems. And then there are chapbooks by Ya-Wen Ho and Erin Yuasa to do, and a book by Lehua Taitano. So Tinfish is busy, and the blog is back. I'm hoping to blog about my teaching this semester, along with whatever else comes up that lives inside the moment of considering it.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Syllabi, Fall 2012

This coming semester, I'll be teaching two courses, an introductory level course on documentary writing and an upper level course on the history of poetic forms.  The first course is a mixed critical and creative course (the kind I teach anyway) and the second is more of a reading course, though students will have to engage with forms as ways to see the world, if not forms as rules to follow in their own poems. 

353: History of Poetic Forms:

273: Documentary Poetry

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

EOAGH special feature on dementia

The new issue of EOAGH includes a feature I edited on dementia writing.  You can find the entire feature here.

Here is my introduction.  

Home (Un)founded: Introduction

Editorial Statement for
“If I didn’t write it down, it’s shhhh”: On Writing Dementia

By Susan M. Schultz

Homeward directly, I wish
–Patricia Rose Straub, “Anastrophe

This notion that home can operate as a foundation of identity allows that identity (since we seem to need it) might function as some kind of “soul,” part of the baggage we can’t leave (behind, or somewhere else) and that it (identity) therefore needs the constructs of home (place, workplace, school, kitchen, neighborhood, and so forth) eventually, in dementia, as a presence that is absent.
–Fred Wah

First house, then home.  I was at the United Airlines gate at Honolulu International Airport last September, just short of three months after my mother died in an Alzheimer’s “home,” when a man nearby began talking very loudly on his cell phone.  He was talking about locking his mother into one room of the house, not letting her out except to go to the bathroom, bringing her food and water.  He was talking about she was hurting the family.  He asked to speak to her directly, then launched into an even louder diatribe: “YOU ARE AN EVIL WICKED PERSON. YOU ARE AN EVIL WICKED PERSON. YOU ARE AN EVIL WICKED PERSON, MOM.”  He was locking her into a room in the house, but he also seemed locked out of empathy. The house promised him limitation, control. It was a closed space, nothing more than a prison for his mother, and for him.

Although dementia is a disease characterized by the mind’s erasure, the process by which erasure occurs is physical. Sufferers, while they still have words, describe them in terms of objects and space.  Thomas DeBaggio, in his memoir, Losing My Mind, writes this: “More and more I am unconsciously mixing words that have similar sounds: our and out, would and wood, me and be, to name a few. This leaking alphabet of reality is something I might have expected in speech, not in writing” (181).  The fluid alphabet, which runs rather than sticks, makes it increasingly hard for DeBaggio—a former journalist—to set thoughts to paper: “The struggle to find the words, to express myself, has become insurmountable. I must now be done with writing and lick words instead” (207).  His last phrase is most curious.  To lick words is to taste something sweet, or to defeat them.  To lick words is to think of them as salt (on your wound).  To lick words is to like them a lot, but not be able to wrestle them into patterns you want them to follow. To lack words is also to be caregiver, as Beatriz Terrazas, whose blog, My Mother’s Brain, is a must-read for anyone interested in Alzheimer’s.  Terrazas is a journalist  who lost her own words to her mother’s Alzheimer’s, and continues to battle what is usually termed “writer’s block.”  This term takes on new urgency in the face of a loved one’s dementia.

The Alzheimer patient’s inability to recognize pattern leads to excess of pattern in corporate Alzheimer’s homes.  Or so it seemed to me visiting my mother over the course of nearly five years in her “home” in northern Virginia.  The four corridors of her ManorCare facility featured simple symbols on their walls so that residents could find their rooms.  There were birds and boats in front of one wing, a clothes line and laundry basket in front of another.  The furniture was hyper-suburban, the art plain, new and yet made to look old.  Nostalgia had little to do with the past, more with keeping the present intact.  (Perhaps this is always the case, but dementia inspires an exaggerated need to fix things in time, place.)  The dining areas featured tables draped with heavy cloths, surrounded by sturdy upholstered chairs.  A large television blasted away in the four living rooms.  But many of the residents spent time, especially during late afternoon’s sundowning, trying to find their way home, away from The Home.  As Fred Wah writes about his mother: “Since then we witnessed her loss and confusion about ‘where’ home is a number of times. She might be up half the night packing her bags and in the morning she’d be waiting: ‘I’m all packed. Are we ready to go home now?’ This from an apartment she had lived in for 5 years and in a town she had lived in for 15 years.”  One woman in my mother’s home often wanted to borrow a couple of dollars to take a taxi home to the Bronx (from Northern Virginia) and became quite agitated when no one would do her that kindness.  Early in her time at the Alzheimer’s home my mother called to say she was in Afghanistan and wanted to get home to Wooster, Ohio, which is where her mother had died decades earlier.

As David Clegg points out in the interview here about the Trebus Project, which he founded, Alzheimer’s sufferers often think in architectural, spatial, terms.  Not only do they think a lot about “home” as a place, but their notion of language is also spatial, the past tense “down,” their thoughts “behind the wall.”  He describes his process of editing transcripts of stories told to him by dementia patients as follows:

Once I had a block of stories I began to see patterns. For example, there is a strange tendency for people to create architectural metaphors to explain their memory loss. They might say a thought is under the floor or behind the wall, suggesting that it is physically present but inaccessible. People often describe events that happened years before as recent but removed in terms of distance, “Mum, lives a hundred miles away now”. Many of the stories are peppered with references to moving up or down, usually up, so the past is usually described as “down”. Many of the storytellers have told me that their room is above or even on top of (in the sense of superimposed) on the family home from their childhood. As a sculptor, I find the notion of symbolic space endlessly fascinating.

And so, Florence, a woman from my mother’s Alzheimer’s home, says in my “Stanzas in Meditation”: “He showed us that, I was wanting to go to the 5th floor; didn’t know how to, must be the 1st floor where they cook stuff.”  (There was no 5th floor where she and my mother were living.)  Frances, whose words Clegg carefully transcribed, combines analogies of forgetting as physical activity with a spatial, architectural sense of her past: “I always thought I had a very good memory.  Now I have the experience that a piece of memory comes unstuck.  When I put it back together, other things are falling apart.  I think I said to you that my grandfather took me somewhere… I think I said it was New York because… and I… I recognised the buildings because they were so much like the shallow ones opposite… and they seem part of the story.”  Memory is a form of recognition before things “fall apart,” before they come “unstuck.”  Dementia is life without the glue, the loss of a sense of solid(ish) shape to one’s experience.  Oddly enough, while words are often thought to be immaterial, the dementia sufferer experiences them as something solid, to be put somewhere, or licked.

Elsewhere in this feature, other writers—those without Alzheimer’s but who have had family members with the disease—point vividly to the significance of space, of rooms.  Beatriz Terrazas retreats to her living room, while relatives and cops search for her mother, who has wandered out through locked doors, and into the dangerous world.  Steel Wagstaff writes at length about his grandfather’s land in Utah, his house, a few windows: “Left of the sink is a smaller window, unobtrusive, hung with faded drapes.  It gives a view of the interior of the greenhouse, and through it I see a sprawl of greens, amassing in deep, various textures.”  Michael Snediker writes an elegy to the spouse of a friend, and  calls it  “Philosopher’s Window.”  The reader opens a window onto a loved one whose interiority now seems to have gone missing.  The literal version of “gone missing” is, of course, one of the symptoms of the illness.  The Alzheimer’s sufferer is on the other side of that window, but seemingly cannot see through.  “Windows to the soul” grow cloudy to the witness, as well as the sufferer, hard to see through for the interlocutor, too.

Snediker, in his essay on Gertrude Stein’s “Lucy Church Amiably,” notes that relationality is based on prepositions, which situate us in space.  Space can close us down, but can also provide an opening.  “[W]e can be besides, in this opening up of dementia-reading in which these phenomena less learn from each other, than patiently, wait with each other, to see what would happen.  And try as readers to be as patient as possible, because in this room, this ill-named ‘facility,’ we are all patients.”  The desire to go home, which one hears so often from patients, residents, is a desire to go to another place, one that often includes relatives long dead, except in the consciousness of the patient.  To live in a facility is to lack facility otherwise; it’s the very difficulty of making language, or even traversing a room, that makes Alzheimer’s writing compelling, requires us all to be “patient.”
To “lick words,” as Thomas DeBaggio writes, may not make prose-sense, but it does make poem-sense.  There’s a link between early and middle-dementia and poetic thinking, even when that thinking is not recognized as such by its “author.”  The inability to find an exact word requires the patient to find an alternative word or phrase, to make metaphor, to posit synecdoche.  (I’m reminded otherwise of a Chinese poet I met once, early in his journey into English, who described Whitman’s lines of verse in translation as going from there (one side of a long room) to there (the other side.  It was the difficult—if more compelling—way to say “the lines are long.”  So sometimes this poetry is poetry; sometimes it is symbolic movement or conversation that meets the listener’s ear not as literal request (which it might be) but as lyrical outburst.

There is much that is awful about dementia, from memory loss to frequent lack of adequate care in and out of prisons and residential facilities.  So it behoves us to recognize that and to see some of the beauty the disease can—inadvertently—offer.  That beauty sometimes extends into freshly constructed relationships between relatives with and without the disease; as Steel Wagstaff notes, his life with his grandmother got easier when her mind slipped.  The same was true for me; many of the sweetest times I had with my mother occurred when she was ill.  This is not an argument for the disease.  But it may—oddly–be an argument for seeking out traces of the disease in art.  Snediker finds it in Gertrude Stein, Clegg in Samuel Beckett’s late plays.  Alzheimer’s exists not only behind locked doors, like the one the man at the airport had closed against his mother’s wandering; it lives in the words we read and write.  Publications like this one are like the number code visitors punch in to open the door to the facility their family member resides in.  By way of metaphor, they open a door that is more than metaphorical, into an open space where Alzheimer’s sufferers are not terrifying, but simply other versions of themselves.

And again: the rest can be found here.