Zoë's goal as a teaching poet is to help older adults fall in love with themselves again. Aging is often perceived as a series of losses, but every day I discover that, through engagement with the arts, exactly the opposite is true.
My specialty is working with older adults, particularly those with memory loss and other cognitive, physical and emotional challenges, at every level from independent living to memory care and hospice care.
Book This Artist
My artistic focus is on participant creativity, inspired by energetic and associative performance and fueled by the engagement of all five senses. Using call and response—the ancient foundation of poetry—as well as movement, props, imagery and music, I introduce poems on a carefully chosen theme and either work one on one with learners to elicit oral history in poetic form or engage an entire group, small or large, in the creation of collaborative poetry. In both settings, lively collective performance of poems, ample related sensory information and open-ended questions around a theme provoke discussion, storytelling and often a lot of laughter. I record the lines and compose a group poem with all participants. Each group session ends with the collective performance of the new work; later I type up the poems and distribute them to the poets in a number of ways, from electronic files to printouts to chapbooks and artists’ books.
A lifelong poet, writer and book artist, I earned a Glyph Award in poetry and a degree certificate in Documentary Studies (with an emphasis on writing) from the College of Santa Fe in 2006. In 2005, I became the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project’s first New Mexico Poet-in-Residence; when I returned to my hometown of Minneapolis in 2010, I created the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project Minnesota (APP-MN). With APP-NM, and now as APP-MN’s director and primary teaching artist, I have brought poetry to thousands of older adults, their caregivers, loved ones and staff in adult day, assisted living and memory care centers, as well as multigenerational and private settings. I am also a professional mentor in arts and aging with ArtSageMN and continue to write, perform and publish my own poetry, often with artists in other media.
An introductory training with facility staff kicks off an eight-class progression of community poetry workshops based on themes relevant to the community. The residency culminates in the creation of a chapbook, broadside or artist’s book, with copies distributed to each poet.
Multi-Generational Poetry Collaboration
This long-term residency is designed to foster long-term inter-generational bonds. I bring the Community Poetry Workshop to a school or other youth group for two to four sessions, and then bring the young poets, now more comfortable with group poetry performance, to a partner elder facility for four to six further, inter-generational poetry sessions. The residency culminates in a community performance event.
The Surprise of Self: A Poetry Residency for Adults With Memory Loss
This joyful, sensory and high-energy poetry residency comprises a series of workshops grounded in rhythmic, call-and-response group performance of poetry. The sessions are designed to fully engage each participant, sparking not only memories and storytelling but exploration into and celebration of what identity means to participants in the moment of creation.
During each session, lively group recitation of poetry leads to a discussion around a theme, using open-ended questions that allow participants to respond spontaneously rather than search for an answer. Echoing and affirming each voice throughout, I collect these lines in a group poem that we then perform together as a group to close the session on a high note. These poems are then collected in chapbook or artist’s book form and distributed to each poet.
A 1-2 hour, high-energy poetry session for groups of 3 to 35, designed to include and affirm each individual voice, culminates in the creation and collective performance of group poems. Adaptable for any group.
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