Molly Middleton Meyer pulls a red silk scarf out of her rolling suitcase and asks the group of 15, “What does this scarf have to do with springtime?”
A brief silence unfolds while people consider.
The woman sitting next to her smiles. “Scarves blow in the wind,” she says.
Molly mimics the scarf wafting in a breeze.
“If the scarf was music, what kind of music would it be?” Molly asks.
“Jazz,” a man says.
“Rock and roll.”
Molly, who has an MFA and is the creator of Mind’s Eye Poetry in Dallas, Texas, reaches into her suitcase and brings out a small watering can. She continues the relaxed pacing, asking for impressions, invoking imagination, creating a sense of comfort and connection for this group of people who live in a memory care facility.
After 20 minutes of creative play, Molly takes out a slim book and says, “Here’s a poem about spring that I really like. See what you think.”
She reads the short, rhyming verse and asks for reactions. She then invites the group to contribute to a writing project.
“There are no wrong answers,” she assures them. “I’ll ask something and you’ll say the first thing that comes into your mind. For example, when I say ‘springtime’ what flowers do you think of? ”
Molly writes down each flower and reads it back to the group.
“We have our first line of poetry,” she tells them.
“Imagine where the flowers are, in a vase, in the garden?”
“What colors are they? What time of day is it?”
Every question invites imagination and word-by-word, the poem emerges. After they’ve created three short poems, Molly shows them a piece of art and asks, “What do you see?” She captures their observations and uses their words to create a poem.
Here’s an example of a poem segment created after looking at Oriental Poppies, Georgia O’Keefe’s painting of two large orange poppies.
I see two evening gowns
on a diagonal, flowing.
I see a Scottie dog
prancing in a field of orange.
“When I read back their words and say, ‘You all just wrote this,’ it’s very empowering,” Molly says.
For those at home who want to have a session of creative imagining, Molly has these suggestions:
Gather a few interesting objects, such as a recipe book, a nature photo, a pot holder, and one at a time, show them to your partner and ask, “Mom, what do you think about when you see this recipe book?” Give her plenty of time to respond and jot down her answers. If she asks, “Why are you writing?” tell her, “I value what you have to say.”
Molly Middleton Meyer is the founder of Dallas-based, Mind’s Eye Poetry. To date, she has facilitated over 600 poems written by people with dementia. Mind’s Eye Poetry has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, the Huffington Post, the Dallas Morning News, Affect Magazine, Growing Bolder Magazine, and on NPR. When Middleton Meyer is not facilitating poetry, she writes her own. Her first book of poetry, Echo of Bones was published in 2014. For more information, contact Molly Middleton Meyer, M.F.A. Poetry Facilitator/Speaker at www.mindseyepoetry.com
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.