The winners of our 2017 poetry competition

We received 101 dementia poems this year across three categories – Change, Share and Celebrate – and we’re proud to publish the winners here.

We're proud to publish the winners of our 2017 poetry competition, featured in our magazine Living with dementia

You sent us 101 dementia poems this year across three categories – Change, Share and Celebrate – which were judged by our shortlisting panel.

Each of the dementia poems we received offered powerful insight into what dementia can mean, often based on personal experience, and we thank everyone who took part. Read below for this year's winners.

Category one: Change

Dementia poems: Karen Riddick

'Dementia didn’t steal my dad', by Karen Riddick

'Has the snow stopped yet?' My father asked one warm day in July.

Then ushered to the doctors, so that tests could tell us why

A whispered diagnosis and ‘Dementia’ by his name.

I didn't know it then but Dad would never be the same

 

We used to catch up once a week, it went to thrice a day.

But everything about my dad began to slip away.

Night and day were all the same, conversations gone

He searched the house for nothing; and the grill would be left on  

 

I made him all his favourite foods, but if I looked away,

He'd eat the napkins, chew the plates and overturn the tray

Naked in the kitchen, but fully dressed in bed.

He didn’t live in my world so I moved to his instead.  

 

Now there’s babies in the kitchen drawer, a cart horse in the hall.

His long dead mother in the porch, and birds behind the wall.

He thinks they’re all inside this home but who am I to say

That none of them exist because, for him they're here to stay.  

 

I help him in the shower but there’s one thing we have learned

It's hard to help him have a scrub when both our backs are turned!

We laugh; we cry; we find our way, we keep each other close.

He tells me all about his life; and things I didn’t know.  

 

When he talks about the old days we head out for merry jaunts

To see his friends, to reminisce and visit favourite haunts.

TV shows and photographs, whatever we can find

To thank our blessings; raise a smile; and keep it all in mind  

 

We’ve walked this road together; but for me, it’s funny how

It gifted us with closeness that we’ve never had ‘til now

Even though I know there’s only one ending ahead.

Dementia didn’t steal my dad; it brought him back instead. 

Runners-up

  • Fiona Ritchie Walker, '2pm, sing-along with Kirsten – community lounge' (Special commendation)
  • Kevin Lunn, 'No fear and loving Las Vegas' (Shortlisted)
  • Sarah Veness, 'The caged bird sings' (Shortlisted)

Category two: Share

Vivienne Anne Mackenzie Ward dementia poems

 

'The unravelling', by Vivienne Anne Mackenzie Ward

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.

Like a much loved jumper.

One that you have had forever, a security blanket.

Then one day, you notice that it’s beginning to get holes, that the buttons are falling off.

It doesn’t worry you at first because you expect it.

Then the loose threads appear, slowly at first, then gradually faster.

And even if you try and re-stitch them, you realise that your beloved jumper is Actually unravelling faster than you can repair it, that it is losing its shape, its form and eventually its purpose.

That all you have left is a pile of yarn – and you can’t find the beginning or the end.

Yet you know it is in there, somewhere...

Together, but apart.

Runners-up

  • Sue Hansard, 'Tulips' (Special commendation)
  • Charlotte Bourne, 'Why am I here?' (Shortlisted)
  • Christine Luddington, 'What do you see?' (Shortlisted)

Category three: Celebrate

Dementia poems: Susan Benton

 

'Parachute nylon wedding dress', by Susan Benton

Maybe you don't dig Harry Styles or Bruno Mars

But you're word perfect with ‘Knees up Mother Brown’;

Light up to ‘White cliffs of Dover’, though you've never been.  

 

Maybe you can't decipher E-numbers or calories

But you can lick your lips at rations of 3oz of sweets

A week; fish and chips for a tanner.  

 

Non-iron, drip-dry, crease-free, designer?

You stroke soft hands in memory of

Parachute nylon scrimped as wedding dress.  

 

Itchy arms tell you of woolen combinations,

Fustian trousers, unforgiving corsets,

Eking out couponed soap to wash them with.

 

 ‘Austerity’ not new to you since

6d a jug of beer, Woodbines a shilling for twenty,

3d back stalls in the Gaumont.  

 

Days, names, birthdays, addresses you forget,

But every detail focused, sharp as a knife,

Is film-like, fairytale, in your amazing Life.

Runners-up

  • Kirsten Ritchie Walker, 'My father's hands' (Shortlisted)
  • Alun Robert, 'Polyglot cosmopolité' (Shortlisted)

Subscribe for more

For more poetry and other stories from people affected by dementia, subscribe to Living with dementia magazine.

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8 comments

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So much said in a few words - all poignant and moving. It was the words in the first poem that hit home with dad being brought back by dementia, exactly the experience I had with my mum.

She never understood my own challenges with OCD, but with dementia came an understanding and tolerance that was never there before, she then did understand for the first time. Empathy sneaked into the room.

I had the opportunity to read the poem ‘Dementia didn’t steal my dad’, by Karen Riddick at the Alzheimer's Christmas Carol Concert that took place in Manchester Cathedral last month .The concert was held on the 13 December - this would have been my dad's 95 birthday and I was grateful to be able to read it in in his honour. He was diagnosed with vascular dementia when he was 80 and he passed away 3 years ago. Dad lived with me and my sister - half the week each and several things in the poem reminded me so much of our own journey with my dad and dementia that I thought it so appropriate. I would like to thank Karen Riddick for the poem and let her know it was well received but do not have any contact details . Can anyone help?

Where can we read the runners up poems? Intrigued to read Kevin Lunn's ‘No fear and loving Las Vegas’...

Hi Adrian, thanks for your comment! You can read some of the runner-up poems on the blog here: http://bit.ly/2y3xIgk Kevin Lunn's poem isn't actually featured here, but I've asked if he's happy for me to share it with you. I'll be in touch once I hear back. Thanks again and all the best.

Sounds interesting, be good to share with everyone if Kevin is happy to let us know about Las Vegas!

Hi Brian, Howard,

Kevin is very happy to share his poem, so please see this below. We hope you enjoy it.

Many thanks,
Ellie

NO FEAR AND LOVING LAS VEGAS
by Kevin Lunn

My heart soars
When my feet touch the ground in this fun filled town
I can’t wait to get down
To hear the happy noise there in Vegas
The place where grown-ups go to play

The casino lined streets shining and bright
Beckon the punters in from the night
Tempting them to risk their luck
And take a chance with their hard earned bucks

I have no fears here
Here is the place when I feel alive
The vibe
Is a tonic that fills me
With energy
Better than any pill

The whoops, the cheers
Are music to my ears
The screams of joy, the din
When someone wins!
And everyone is drawn in
To the celebrations

We hug, we laugh, and we sing we dance
Someone is happy they took a chance
And won !
We share the joy of their victory
In beating the odds

This is Las Vegas this is me
Ten dollars that’s all I need
To feel high
This is the place where I come alive
This is Las Vegas
This is me

© Kevin Lunn

I'm sat here in tears after reading "Dementia didn't take my Dad" - it's beautifully written - an amazingly moving poem..

My husband has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Vascular Dementia so we are learning how different life is getting but have had wonderful help from the Alzheimer's Society..

DEMENTIA... A SLIP IN TIME

Where am I? Where am I? You hear me cry,
It all looks so different, why oh why?
How did I get here? where is this place?
Who`s sat there? An unfamiliar face!
This isn't my house, this is not my chair,
Who are you? that's sat right over there?
I want to go home, I don't want to be here,
In strange surroundings, feeding my fear,
Then I am back, as quick as I went,
And all around me is heaven sent,
My beautiful wife sat right there
Here I am again, sat in my chair,
How long was I gone? it's just a slip in time,
I can never be sure what really is mine.

Norrms Mc Namara Diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago

Please share if you so wish

(Soon to follow a youtube video called A SLIP IN TIME explaining my moments, best i can when i go somewhere I do not know but never move from my chair) in my ongoing YOUTUBE DEMENTIA TIME TO TELL THE TRUTH SERIES

xxx

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