Finding a Common Language through Poetry

Finding a Common Language through Poetry – Caroline Dawson

As a young child, standing in my grandmother’s kitchen, I recall when she’d set me to a task and then gleefully recite with fake seriousness:

“Stand not upon the order of your going, But goat once.”

With a giggle and a wink she’d say:  “go at…but my school book printed it “goat”.  I’m sure that’s not what Lady Macbeth meant, but we liked it better that way.”
Well into her late nineties Gran would quip off snippets of poetry, lyrics or bits of plays. Her pleasure at the lingering familiarity of these well loved words and melodies was obvious.

There is a rhythm in the turning of seasons, a rhythm in our days.

Patterns of meals, and laundry and mundane tasks.

Repetition sets thoughts, sensations and habits into our minds, hearts and hands.

“Stand not upon the order of your going, But goat once.” was repeated often enough to become a pattern for me –  I still find myself misquoting this line urging myself to get a move on.

The popularity of nursery rhymes combined with the common practice in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s of rote memorization of poetry, means many seniors have a common, shared vocabulary of their childhood. And, theseCommon Vocabulary AgeWise patterns of repetition were set so early and so deeply that even seniors living with advanced symptoms of dementia can often participate in reciting poetry.

Caregivers can enliven times spent with seniors by reading and repeating poetry together. (See below for inspiration links)

Pick a nursery rhyme and give it a try:

“Hey diddle diddle,…..” (Just hearing the first line prompts the mind to fill in the blank!)

“…The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed, To see such sport, And the dish ran away with the spoon.”

Or how about: “Jack and Jill…” …went up the hill.

This week is the first week of Spring and in Kansas the daffodils are out!

To celebrate here is William Wordsworth’s famous poem about the memory of these bright yellow flowers. Enjoy, and share this poem with someone today!

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

(Here is a link to a recording at the Poetry Foundation)


If you are interested in more information regarding the therapeutic link between poetry and seniors with symptoms of dementia, take a look at: The Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Especially their tips on sharing poetry.

Looking for more poems about spring or another topic?  The Poetry Foundation has a helpful search function, including searching by seasonal theme. Here’s some more Springtime Inspiration.


I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
Join our visitors who are receiving our newsletter and receive our blog updates direct to your inbox.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.
Comments are closed.