Monday, October 05, 2009

October 2009 update

2 pubs this month:

"My Father's Tzimmes, 1956" in Switched-on-Gutenberg
"Fragments from An Alzheimer's Journey" over at FragLit

Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View - Goodbye for now

I'll be reading at Hugo House with the Switched-on-Gutenberg contributors Thurs. Oct. 15th. We'll be in the cafe. 7:30 pm. You can get a bite to eat, have some wine and catch the readings from issues 14 "Science and Technology" and Issue 15 "Gains and Losses”. Guess which one I'm in.

Don't forget It's About Time Thurs night.

See you soon,

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sept. 2009 Updates

The It's About Time Writers Reading Series has its own blog now. We are also on facebook.

The Poeming the Silence blog is now activated.

See you soon,


Saturday, July 04, 2009

It's About Time Writers Reading Series#239

Thursday, July 9, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 7:45pm
Location: Ballard library
Street: 5614 22nd Ave. N.W.
City/Town: Seattle, WA

Authur Tulee, Jeff Encke, Jane Alynn + Laura McKee on The Writer's Craft

Laura McKee holds a B.A. in French and English from the University of Utah, and an M.F.A from the University of Washington. Her work has appeared in Rhino, Mid-American Review, Campbell’s Corner, Identity Theory, Konundrum, Cutbank, and Denver Quarterly. Her book, Uttermost Paradise Place, was chosen this year by Claudia Keelan for the APR Honickman 1st Book Prize and will be published in the fall. She works at Cornish College of the Arts.

Arthur Tulee was born and raised on the Yakama Indian Reservation and graduated from Washington State University in 1990, receiving a B.A. in English. He is currently living and working in the Seattle metropolitan area. He is excited to read all brand new material for this It's About Time.

Jane Alynn is a poet and fine-art photographer. Alynn’s first collection of poems, Threads & Dust, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2005. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, such as Calyx, Floating Bridge Review, The Pacific Review, Quercus Review, Manorborn, Snowy Egret, StringTown, and Switched-on Gutenberg, as well as in many anthologies. In 2004 she was awarded a William Stafford Award from Washington Poets Association. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles and currently lives in Anacortes.

Jeff Encke taught writing and criticism at Columbia University for several years, serving as writer-in-residence for the Program in Narrative Medicine while completing his PhD in English in 2002. He now teaches literature at Richard Hugo House. His poems have appeared in or forthcoming from American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Bat City Review, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Kenyon Review Online, Salt Hill, and Tarpaulin Sky, among others. In 2004, he published Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, a series of love poems addressed to Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi war criminals printed on a deck of playing cards.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rosewood, Uncle Benny, Abe & Alzheimer's

It turns out I had early training in Alzheimer's care. I grew up with a mentally impaired and physically disabled uncle, whom I adored. He lived in an institution called Rosewood, actually the Rosewood State Training School for Boys, out Reisterstown Rd. in Owings Mill, Md., about an hour north of where the Helfgott and Altshul clans lived in Baltimore city.

read more

Is Art Betrayal?

It's a dangerous mission. You/could die out there. You /could go on forever. Tess Gallagher, Instructions to the Double

Frye Art Museum
Sunday, May 3, 2009

As soon as I go to the podium, I want Abe. In my mind, I leave, run to the nursing home to be with him. I don't belong in this space. Something is wrong. I'm supposed to talk about my poem Spouse as Home but I can't speak. I can't look at my notes. What I'm doing is unethical. My body tells me this.

read more

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beyond Forgetting: Poetry & Prose about Alzheimer's Disease - Reading at Frye Museum

May 3, 2009
2 pm

Frye Art Museum
704 Terry Avenue
Seattle, Washington
(206) 622-9250

I'll be reading. Hope you can make it!
Tickets are free. Pick them up at the front desk

Beyond Forgetting is a unique collection of poetry and short prose about Alzheimer’s disease written by 100 contemporary writers—doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice workers, family members —whose lives have been touched by this tragic disease. Through the transformative power of writing, their words enable the reader to move “beyond forgetting,” beyond the stereotypical portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease to honor the dignity of those afflicted. Published in spring 2009 by Kent State University Press as part of their Literature and Medicine series and with a foreword by poet Tess Gallagher, this anthology forms a richly textured, literary portrait encompassing the full range of the experience of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Frye is honored to host the first public reading from Beyond Forgetting. Readers are poet Tess Gallagher, editor/poet Holly Hughes, and contributors Jane Alynn, Lana Hechtman Ayers, Joanne Clarkson, Nancy Dahlberg, John Davis, Alice Derry, Arthur Ginsberg, Joseph Green, Esther Altshul Helfgott, Denise Calvetti Michaels, and Kay Mullen. The book will be available for purchase at the event.
Related Items

Monday, April 27, 2009

Alzheimer Node

My blog today is the result of Poetry through the Ages
If you haven't seen it, give a click, especially the node section.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's About Time Writers, May 14, 2009

Thurs. May 14, 2009 #237 features Rochelle Kochin, Carmen Germain, Josh Isaac + Emily Warn on The Writer's Craft.

Emily Warn is the author of The Leaf Path, The Novice Insomniac, and Shadow Architect all from Copper Canyon Press in 2008. Her poems and essays appear in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Blackbird, BookForum, The Bloomsbury Review, and The Writer’s Almanac. She has taught creative writing for Lynchburg College in Virginia, was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and most recently served as the founding editor of She will be speaking on Poetry and Personal Identity.

Rochelle Kochin and her husband Levis Kochin live in Seattle where they raised their four children. Since retiring from Boeing, Rochelle spends her time writing, traveling and telling stories to her American and Israeli grandchildren. Her short story Angel of Death appeared in the second volume of Drash.

Joshua Isaac, 36, has been expressing himself creatively since childhood with several published pieces of poetry, prose and an award winning documentary film. But his work has been defined by his ongoing eleven year battle with cancer. This Seattle native finds that his greatest gifts are his wife and three children. Josh's film "My Left Hand" is at

Carmen Germain is a co-director of the Foothills Writers Series, Peninsula College, Port Angeles. Pathwise Press published Living Room, Earth, in 2002, and Cherry Grove published These Things I Will Take with Me in 2008. On academic sabbatical in 2007-2008, Carmen was a Visiting Artist/Scholar at the American Academy in Rome, working on a manuscript and researching the work of the Italian post-war writer Elsa Morante. She and her husband live in northern British Columbia in the summer.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Memory Loss Seminar - Everett/Edmonds - April 3

Memory Loss Seminar - Everett/Edmonds - April 3
Thanks to reader Leslie Larson, I bring you the following information:

SEMINAR: Putting the Pieces Together - How to Support Friends and Family Dealing with Memory Loss Issues with Teepa Snow, Dementia Care and Training Specialist

April 3, 2009
2 locations!
Please pre-register
Space is limited

9:30 AM - 12:00 Noon
Trinity Episcopal Church
2301 Hoyt Avenue
Everett WA 98201
Call to register:

1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
Edmonds United
Methodist Church
828 Caspers Street
Edmonds, WA 98020
Call to register:
Ext. 22

You will learn:
• The symptoms of various memory loss diseases.
• Communication strategies that work.
• How to cope with and effectively handle a broad
range of difficult behaviors.
• Strategies to maintain meaningful activities and
relationships without diminishing your health (mental
and physical).
• Snohomish County has many excellent community
resources specializing in family caregiving issues.

The Communities of Faith / Family Caregiver Workshops
are underwritten by the Snohomish County Family Caregiver Network, and the Alzheimer's Associations of Western and Central Washington,

Department of Human Services Director Kenneth Stark
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon

More info at Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View

Alzheimer's Association Regional Conference

Alzheimer's Association Regional Conference
Supporting the Resilient Mind

Friday, April 24th, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Washington State Convention Center.

According to Keri Pollock of the Western and Central Washington State Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association: This year's conference will be our 24th annual and promises to be the best yet.

We offer a special family caregiver rate of $40.00, which includes 3 workshops, two keynote speakers, information, resources, and a lovely plated lunch. We intentionally developed a family caregiver track, knowing how hungry caregivers are for hands-on, relevant training, and a day in the company of others with whom they can share, connect, and relate.

There is also a pre-conference day of sessions on Thurs. April 23rd.

For information, contact:
Keri Pollock (Heinen)
Communications Director
Western and Central Washington State Chapter
ph. 206.363.5500 ext 246

More info at Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View

Monday, March 16, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reading & Writing

from my blog, Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View, at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on-line, March 13, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bluebeard's Castle & Jewish Law

from Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View, Seattle P.I., March 10, 2009

Saturday night I went with a friend to see Bluebeard's Castle. I don't know much about opera, but I can't imagine another troupe putting on a better rendition of Bluebeard or Erwartung than the Seattle Opera did. A spectacular evening. Except I wasn't in the right frame of mind to go to the opera or anywhere else. It's true what they say about the long goodbye. One is forever in a state of mourning, so no matter how stunning the settings, the orchestra, the arias, I am hard-pressed to find joy in a musical night out. read more

Friday, March 06, 2009

Still Alice

Thanks to a reader I met on facebook, I picked up a copy of Still Alice this weekend, a gripping read. I couldn't put it down.

For those who are living through Alzheimer's, whether as caregiver or victim, I understand why you wouldn't want to read one more sentence about Alzheimer's. After years of dealing with the disease and studying this opinion and that, reader's fatigue sets in. But Still Alice will pick you up again. It's all about the idea of self and its practical manifestations in every day life. Though Genova doesn't use these words - the language is mine and she may disagree - for me the characters of Alice and her husband, John, demonstrate first hand the relationship between ego and self.

read more

March 6, 2009, Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View


Abe was so beautiful tonight. We've been married 27 years and have known each other 28, but in all that time I don't think I've noticed his cheekbones.

He slept in his wheelchair throughout my visit. I sat on his bed and watched him. He's lost about 50 pounds. His face is thin and sculpted. He is pure Abe, pristine and whole. His cheekbones are stunning.

I'm taken aback. On the one hand, absence of his beard has upset me more than I initially thought it would (I've asked them not to shave him again); on the other hand, the shaven face has allowed me to see newness where I hadn't before. Newness, as in a new-born's newness, absent of scars and blemishes that come with living.

read more
March 4, 2009, Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Nursing Home Break: Irene Drennan & the Red Sky Poetry Reading at Hugo House

from Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on line

Just home from the dog park and a good walk with Emma. I always forget the digital camera. You should have seen Emma next to a 160 pound St. Bernard. Big as she is her 75 pounds could have walked under him.

I had planned to go to see Abe after the dog park; but all night long I dreamed of driving to the home, getting out of the car with a bottle of water, forgetting the water somewhere, then not being able to find his room once off the elevator and on the right floor. The dream goes on and on, I'm back in graduate school, then years earlier to when my kids were little and old age was something I didn't know about.

So I didn't go to the nursing home. The dream helped me not go. I went home instead, dried Emma off and came here to decide what poem's I'll read tonight. I don't know if I'll get to Abe's today or not.

Today and night I spend time with my friend and writing group sister, Irene Drennan. Irene died in August and tonight Red Sky is paying her tribute with a reading at Hugo House, 7 pm. Poets in both of Irene's writing groups are reading.

From the the Seattle Five Plus One group are Anne Sweet and Priscilla Long and from the Daughters of Dementia, I'll be reading along with Diane Westergaard and Denise Calvetti Michaels.

The Daughters met at my house for two of the years that I cared for Abe at home so Irene and the others were very much a part of us and Abe a part of them. I think I'll read a couple of poems I wrote when in the group with her and some she always laughed at. The poems will help me hear her laugh again. She had such a great laugh. You can see it here MsgAttachment[1].jpg

Hope to see some of you at Hugo House in a few hours. There's open mic so you can read too. Come early to get a seat and a parking spot.

Thanks for stopping by,

free association (beard's gone)

February 28, 2009

He looked so frail tonight, more so than usual. I wish they hadn't shaved his beard off. He looks more like his brother now than he does himself. I don't know why they had to shave his beard off. He's had it over 40 years. I wonder how his face feels to him now? Does he know? Does it itch? When he touches his face does he feel something's missing? They shouldn't have cut his beard off. They should have included me in that decision. I don't know why I feel worse about his beard than I do the cross on his forehead on Ash Wednesday, but I do. They had no business shaving him. I've never seen him without a beard except in pictures when he was young, maybe in his thirties and before. He's lost so much weight, 40 pounds or more and he loses more every day. The speech therapist changed his diet from "pureed" to "mechanical soft," also without consulting me. He can't eat that food, can't swallow, keeps it in his cheeks (called pocketing), until it falls out or he figures how to spit it out. He's so thin. It's better if he drinks a health shake, which provides nutrition, than to worry him with food he can't swallow. He's so thin, he's so so thin, and now his beard's gone. When I got there at 5:30 tonight, he was in the dining room asleep in his wheelchair. He had a paper cup of something slipping out of his hand and most of what had been in the cup was on his shirt. He wasn't the only one. Everyone was waiting for dinner. He had his red t-shirt on. He looks beautiful in red and with the beard gone his face is all pink like a baby's. I took the cup from his hand and wiped his shirt. He continued sleeping, his mouth open, then closed, then open. I don't know why they had to shave his beard off. I loved his beard. Later in bed he wakened a bit but still I couldn't get him to drink, much less eat. He knew me. When I said I love you, he said Me too, smiled a little, then went back to sleep. The sleep's from not refusing his medicine. Yesterday he refused his so ate more, at least I think that's the cause and effect. (The nurse showed me the chart, which is how I know when he did and didn't take his medicine). I can't stand that they shaved him. The first time I saw him shaved last week, I worried more about his face itching and how it would feel as it grew back than anything else. Everybody said how great he looked and he did look great, but now they did it again and so unexpectantly. That's what they do with men in the mornings, one nurse told me. Maybe so, but not to men with beards. Darn it. I wonder how he feels when he's being shaved. It's not as if he doesn't have feelings anymore. He's still Abe, and I'm still Esther. I don't know him without a beard. I didn't know he had little veins in his face or that his ears stuck out like that. I didn't know there was all that vulnerability under a beard. I didn't ever know men were so vulnerable as that.

read more of Witnessing Alzheimer's


Posted by Esther Altshul Helfgott at 3/1/09 11:57 a.m.

This isn't true free association. In that process, I include all thoughts and images that come to mind. I include dreams and pictures, colors, tastes and smells. I wouldn't use upper case or punctuation. Lines, words and sentences fall over each other. It's difficult to read.

But here you may get an idea of what happens when I suggest that students free associate on the page to see what themes they are thinking about. There's always plenty of material that emerges, and in the unconscious, of course, there is infinity.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Of Poetry & Exercise

Today when I read from Naomi Shihab Nye's Envy:*

The white cat
on the white chair
lives white minutes
I'm not even in

he said: That's beautiful; and when I started to get up, he said: Don't go.

Imagine. Two sentences. And he looked at me - with mind.

The move to the second floor has been good for him. He's more alert and he shows more affect. Today, as people passed us in the hall, he smiled his crinkly-eyed smile and a young blonde visitor caught his eye.

Meanwhile, I joined the Y and Silver Sneakers, had my first exercise class and consultation with the Y's personal trainer, both good experiences. I especially like doing the strengthening stuff and working out with weights. Who knew?

Thanks for stopping by,

*Envy by Naomi Shihab Nye in Cats of Cairo: Egypt's Enduring Legacy by Lorraine Chittock.

read more of Witnessing Alzheimer's at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on line

Ash Wednesday

Feb. 25 '09

Visiting Abe tonight had an interesting twist. I came in after he was washed and readied for bed. He looked sweet. His face was pink and beautifully clean. Except ... the aide must have missed a spot....

read more of Witnessing Alzheimer's at

Monday, February 23, 2009

A dozen darn donuts

I sit by his bed. It's 3:30 p.m. He's sleeping. I watch him for only a few minutes, then tell the aide: "I'll be back." But I don't go back. I leave the nursing home thinking I'll go back/knowing I won't.

Instead, I get in the car and go to Krispy Kreme Donuts. I never go to Krispy Kreme Donuts. I don't buy donuts. I don't eat donuts. I live across the street from Top Hat Donuts and I don't even go in there because I don't buy donuts. I mean never. When did you ever see me buy a donut? read more at Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View, the Seattle

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today's Visit

Witnessing Alzheimer's - Feb. 19, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Abe ate by himself

Exciting day. My California son and grandson are here for the week.

At lunch, Abe ate his food (pureed) - some of it - all by himself. He was more alert than I've seen him in awhile.

Notice of an Alzheimer's Anthology I have a poem in just came out. The actual tome should be on the stands in March '09.

Two Seattle readings are already planned. I hope some of you will be able to make it.

May 2 Elliot Bay Books 7:30 pm (time still needs to be confirmed)
May 3 Frye Art Museum 2 pm - I'll be reading here

Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease
Edited by Holly J. Hughes

Literature and Medicine Series
2009, 276 pp
ISBN 978-1-60635-007-2

A literary collection that illumines the darkness of Alzheimer's disease

read more of Witnessing Alzheimer's at

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Witnessing Alzheimer's: Stage 7

I never expected him to reach this point. At the same time, I haven't wished for him to die. I haven't prayed for him to die. I've made no bargains with God or anyone else. I've just done everything I could to keep him comfortable. I've poured myself into that task. If it had been me I'd have wanted euthanasia. But I know Abe would not have wanted that, even if it were possible. He'll stay until the end and I'll stay with him. I only hope my courage is as great as his.

read more at the Seattle P.I.

Monday, January 19, 2009

He was better today

recognized me when I came in
took my hand and kissed it.

Later, he kissed his own hand.
He has a bruise,
and he kissed the bruise
as if he were a father caring for a child,
something like the day
he called himself He.

While I was there he ate
a cup of ice cream, strawberry
with medicine in it
and 3 to 4 ounces of health shake.

A few days ago
I didn't think I'd make it to the opera tomorrow.
I thought I'd be arranging a funeral
but I'll go to the opera
and out to eat with a friend.
I'll pretend the day is normal.
Maybe it is.

Thanks for dropping by,


Suggested reading

Alzheimer's Notes

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Witnessing Alzheimer's: Dinner

Last night at dinner:
a dish of pears
6 ounces of health shake
4 ounces of apple juice
the rest: spit read more at the Seattle P.I.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A twinkle in his eye

There was no twinkle in Abe's eye yesterday; not much the day before either. Today I brought him read more

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

She kisses me goodbye

In this entry, Abe gets a chance to speak, a fun way to open up possibilites for our relationship on the page.