The Mystic Geriatric Institute held its second annual poetry reading with a reception for the two poets from East Lyme High School’s Intergenerational Poetry Project – Noelle Avena and Eve Slemp – and two poets from Stonington High School – Sarah Berger and Molly Neal.
At the Mystic Noank Library, this event was held on the last day of National Poetry Month in April.
Keynote address by Dr. Chris Morren, geriatrician and president of the Mystic Geriatric Institute, explained the vision for the Intergenerational Poetry Project.
“The PPI connects the older generation to the younger. In doing so, it validates the life of the elder and enriches the life of the younger,” he said.
Melanie Greenhouse, playwright and published poet, worked closely with Dr. Morren to realize their vision. Greenhouse regularly met with students to coach them on the poetry she was considering.
“Doing this during a pandemic made it heavier. We had additional hurdles to overcome, but we were determined.
Diane Brouder, the daughter of Louise Stoetzner and a psychotherapist from Essex, said the PPI was a real boon to her mother during the pandemic because poetry is very healing and can be therapeutic.
She also liked the intergenerational aspect of this project. Brouder believes that whenever people connect, there is potential for change and expansion for both.
“The connection between young poets and my mother helped her feel known and appreciated at this time in her life and reduced her sense of isolation during the pandemic,” she said.
Noelle Avena’s poem captured Ms. Stoetzner’s personality and style in a sensitive and artistic way. “The poems will become family treasures. The event itself was very rewarding for both of us! I plan to keep in touch with the Mystic Geriatrics Institute.
Greenhouse said it was really important for young poets to capture the voice of their subject. “I wanted them to use first person when writing to increase the depth and impact of their words.”
All students translated narrative and direct quotations into poems.
Jeff Beale, English teacher at East Lyme and faculty coach for the school newspaper The Viking Saga, said: “These students are showing incredible talent and extremely busy schedules. They are students, athletes, musicians and community volunteers.
The selected students each received an octogenarian or a nonagenarian to interview. With Greenhouse’s suggestions, students interacted with their elders and discovered life experiences and nuances that informed their perspectives.
In her opening comments, Berger, who is a junior at Stonington High School, returned to the morning event after a regatta. She said it was the first time she had had the opportunity to speak with an elderly person. She met her subject Lizzy (94) on several occasions, discovering important details and formative events in her life. Lizzy’s family belonged to a group of people who worked hard at the Stonington Velvet Mill or fished the waters. One of Lizzy’s brothers lost his life when he fell overboard and was eaten by a shark.
Neale met Mary, his eldest, by telephone and heated discussions ensued. Her wonderful personality shone through the phone calls. Molly said: “The IPP was a chance for me to gain the respect of the older generation and their defining experiences, and for me to learn from those experiences in the form of the stories they had.”
Molly’s poems contained pearls of wisdom: “never gossip, learn to keep secrets, be focused, stay strong and support yourself because in the end, you are the only person you have to rely on.
Slemp captured poetic images of Hardeep Channe’s early life in Kenya and her transition to a nursing student in the UK. As a nurse, Channe provided medical care to anyone who needed help. “It was not about the color of (the patient’s) skin, but about their medical need.”
And as nursing students, Channe learned that, regardless of skin color, all learners struggled to master the information and training to become qualified nurses and receive their postgraduate degrees. graduation.
Louise Stoetzner, who is 91, saw her work in the medical field compressed by Avena in the poems she wrote. Stoetzner said she was “thrilled beyond words” to be a part of this project.
Lucas Neil, an extremely talented singer, guitarist and East Lyme High School alumnus, provided music before the reception and as interludes between the poetry readings. Neil wrote for The Viking Saga while at ELHS and was delighted to have Beale in the audience to hear him perform, especially his own musical composition.
“I have long been enamored of the wisdom of old people, as well as the poetry of energetic young people,” he said. “This band mends those worlds in such a beautiful way – a way that everyone involved can benefit.”
Neil concluded by saying, “I was thrilled to be involved in such an event and can’t wait to see how this group evolves.”
The Power of Together, a Mystic charity, helped fund this project. To learn more, visit mysticgeriatricinstitute.com.
Cate Steel lives in East Lyme. Find out more about her at catesteel.com.