I have an old friend who is in the advanced stages of dementia. He can barely remember his children. But he remembers music. If you play him something from his youth, songs from South Pacific or Cole Porter musicals, he knows melody and score. I brought him T. S. Eliot the other day, because he went to Harvard during the early 1950s when T. S. Eliot was a sort of god. I read him “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and from The Waste Land. He remembered whole lines, the familiar ones that used to astonish us then. “In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.” “Do I dare to eat a peach?” “I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. / I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.” I thought, my God, how great T. S. Eliot is. These poems are so musical they can be remembered even after the ability to string words together has dissolved.January 20: It turns out that there’s an Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.
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