Beyond Forgetting

1977 St. Olaf graduate Holly Hughes was enrolled in the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in 2001, and looking for a final project for her Masters of Fine Arts degree, when she lost her mother to Alzheimer’s disease.  Hughes is a poet, and poetry helped her through the darkness and attuned her to the unexpected beauty at the end of her mother’s life.  “Writing poems,” she writes, “became a way to witness honestly while reminding me to dwell in the present alongside my mother.”  

After her mother died, Hughes conceived the idea of an anthology of poetry about Alzheimer’s disease to help others touched by the same experience.  She sent out a call for submissions, and was overwhelmed by the response.  Hundreds of poets from around the world sent her remarkable poems that mirrored her experience in caring for her mother, and with difficulty she culled through them to produce the new anthology Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease.  The anthology, with a foreword by poet Tess Gallagher, has just been published by the Kent State University Press as part of their Literature and Medicine series.  

One of the selections in the anthology is my own poem, “Fudgesicle,” about my father’s aphasia (the inability to speak or remember words).  Aphasia is a symptom of Alzheimer’s, but in my father’s case it was the result of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a degenerative disease frequently confused with either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.  

Hughes majored in English at St. Olaf, but designed an Environmental Studies concentration in the paracollege, working closely with Senior Tutor David Wee.   Since graduating, she’s had a wide variety of experiences, from working in a commercial fishery in Alaska and writing for a fishing newspaper, to teaching English at Edmonds Community College in Washington, where she has been for the past twenty years.  

Beyond Forgetting is a moving collection, and will be a helpful guide and companion for anyone who has cared for, or is now caring for, a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  Writing about caring for her own mother, Tess Gallagher writes, “Each day I bent my discovering, for both of us, the best way to carry each hour, each day, each season.”  Poetry helped her to live in each of those passing moments, and to share them with others.  

Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease is available for $29.95 from the Kent State University Press.  Click here to be taken to a page for online ordering.  Or, better yet, it can be special ordered for you at Monkey See, Money Read.