A Good Trip on This Paper – The Alzheimer’s Poets
Mary, Amy’s Grandmother inlaw.
Phoenix-based journalist Amy Silverman usually writes about politics.
But when she heard that Arizona State University was sending creative
writing students into nursing homes to write poetry with Alzheimer’s
patients, she was intrigued.
That’s partly because she had a family member with Alzheimer’s.
While Amy’s grandmother-in-law was folding paper napkins — her
loving but befuddled family’s only way of occupying Grandma’s
faltering mind — the nursing home residents were looking at Dali
prints, singing songs, talking about dinosaurs.
And on a good day, a poem would come out of the patients’ observations.
Accidental poetry, to be sure. But does it really matter?
This is Amy Silverman’s first radio piece. She did it all
herself, with a little help at the end from some technical friends.
Amy is a public radio fan, but she’d never held a microphone, cut a
story, written and read narration, etc.
She happened to be hosting a book reading in Phoenix for
Neal Pollack when she met Jonathan Menjivar on his
Odyssey producing his first piece for Transom.org “Neal Pollack Takes
on America.” Jonathan passed on his Transom tape
recorder to Amy and she got busy. She can tell you more in the
Discussion Board Topic about this piece.
I recorded the interviews and poetry workshops on a
Sony TC-D5M with a Beyer M-58 microphone, then
listened to the tapes and made a list of potential
quotes and sounds. Drew Chavez with The Media Guys (a
Tempe-based political consulting/strategy/polling
firm) used Cool Edit software to make the cuts, then I
listened to them (again and again and again) at home
and incorporated some of the cuts into my script.
After long-distance consultations and practice
readings with Jay, it was back to The Media Guys to
record the narration with Bob Grossfeld. Again, he
used Cool Edit, and, in Bob’s words, an Electro-Voice
635a mike — “not the greatest for studio work, but a
good all around mike that can also be used as a
hammer.” I then played backseat driver as Bob mixed
the narration with quotes, songs and background sound.
[NOTE from The Transom Team: We evened out a few mixes,
levels and EQ, but the piece is basically uploaded as we got
it. For broadcast, it could use a better narration recording
and a few other fixes, but, hey, streaming audio covers a
multitude of sins, and we need a few imperfections to
talk about anyhow, don't we?]
This piece was created with help from HearingVoices.
Amy Silverman is firm in the belief that she was
kidnapped as an infant from a vibrant urban center by
some very nice people named the Silvermans (to whom
she bears an uncanny physical resemblance) and brought
to live in Phoenix, Arizona.
She escaped many times — to Washington, D.C., New
York City, and the Inland Empire of San Bernardino,
California — but ultimately returned home to write
long sentences for the alternative weekly Phoenix New
Times and fall in love with a guy from Queens. Amy’s
work has also appeared in salon.com, George, Playboy
and The New York Times Magazine, but this is her first
experience with radio since a one-day seminar at the
Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism
a decade ago.