Senior Lifestyles

Celebrating poetry – and life: BridgePoint residents find fellowship, healing in words


Mary Larsen/Town Crier
Members of the BridgePoint at Los Altos poetry group, from left, Anita Holzberg, Fidel Soria-Gaytan, Wayne Douglass and Lili Crellin, gather to share their poetic musings.

“‘Poetry is like standing on the edge of a lake on a moonlit night and the light of the moon is always pointing straight at you,’” Fidel Soria-Gaytan read, quoting poet Billy Collins. “Does anybody relate to that?”

Anita Holzberg said that if you’re inspired, the light of the moon is always pointing straight at you. Soria-Gaytan related it to the experience of writing a poem: “When I start writing, it’s a moment just for me and what I’m thinking. Like he said, there’s a light pointing straight at you. That’s how I feel when I’m writing poetry.”

It’s a Sunday afternoon in the library at BridgePoint at Los Altos. For the past two years, residents have gathered weekly to read, write and discuss poetry. The group has generated insight and, often, healing.

Holzberg, a lifelong poet, and Barbara Kulle, a poetry therapist, studied the work of poetry therapist John Fox, based in Mountain View, before starting the group.

“(Fox) has gone all over the country and the world healing people through their poems, teaching poetry through other poems, as well as individuals’ experiences,” Holzberg said.

A former English teacher, Holzberg said poetry has always been an important part of her life, whether reading it, writing it or teaching it. She said she’s always wanted to teach seniors poetry – both for the writing and the healing aspects.

“Barbara and I talk about how poetry can be healing, and it’s the words of the soul,” she said. “It can come in any form, but the words have to make sense as they hang together on the page. It’s always great if the poet has meter and internal rhyme and has a rhythm. We talk about that here, too.”

Words’ worth

Former English professor Wayne Douglass brought along his Oxford poetry anthology, “the 100-pounder,” that he quipped one could use for weight-lifting.

“It has everything, from the beginning to the day before yesterday,” he said.

He shared a quote from an essay about reading poetry from his favorite Vermont poet, Robert Frost: “Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, a poem floats on its own melting.”

The previous Sunday, the group had written haikus, inspired by the paintings on the walls of the BridgePoint library.

“Everybody managed to do that,” Holzberg said, “and they were really quite good.”

She said it’s exciting to see some members go from never having written a poem to starting to write poetry in their 90s.

Or in their 20s.

Soria-Gaytan, 23, part of the BridgePoint wellness staff, has been attending the weekly meetings for the past year and a half and has now written a few poems.

Whether analyzing and discussing a well-known poet’s work or creating their own, a significant part of the process is relating a poem to their own lives.

Holzberg shared her poem “Wheelchair Musings” with the group. The three attendees in wheelchairs this particular Sunday could relate to the challenges of adjusting to depending on a wheelchair.

Whether honing their art, learning something new or coming to terms with life’s changes, all agreed that the group has many benefits.

“I like to watch people actually engage in life. … They’re going to make sense out of their experience,” Douglass said. “And that’s what poetry does.”

BridgePoint resident Lili Crellin said they each had their own journey that “can be put on paper. … We all have a story to tell. That’s what brings me here. I think everyone in this group has something to share.”

Soria-Gaytan said the group had taught him to see poetry in a new light.

“It’s more of a healing process rather than just words on paper,” he said.

To read Anita Holzberg’s blog, which includes many of her poems, visit anitaandme.blogspot.com.

For more information on BridgePoint at Los Altos, visit kiscoseniorliving.com and enter “Los Altos” in the search field.

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