15 May 2020

More than 300 poems were submitted to Brookdale’s National Poetry Challenge, which provided Brookdale residents across the country with an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge their creativity, emotions and thoughts through the written word. Another goal of this contest was to help combat the feelings of isolation many seniors are feeling as they practice social distancing as a way to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The collected poems open a window into how seniors are dealing with COVID-19, aging and life’s treasures. The contest reinforced the power of poetry. Both the poet and the reader can find therapeutic value in the arrangement of words.

A poem titled “Reflections on COVID-19” by John Artusa, a 92-year-old resident at Brookdale Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Ill., was chosen as the grand champion. Containing just 33 words, his poem projects strong images and emotions about the impact the COVID-19 virus has had on the world. Artusa has written poetry for more than 60 years and plans to publish a book soon containing more than 150 original poems.

“When you write a poem, you want to express some sentiment you have about the world,” Artusa said. “I think it’s an expression of your more serious, deep thoughts. There’s an aspect of poetry that’s like pure music. It has to do with structure and feeling, combined with thought.” 

Judges, who included members of Brookdale’s resident and family engagement team, selected nine finalists using a five-star rating system. Brookdale executives then determined the top three finalists, including the grand champion. The other finalists were “Things I Can’t Live Without” by Laverne Jacobsen, a resident at Brookdale Magnolia in California, and “THE ‘COST’ OF LIVING” by Terry M. Anderson, a resident at Brookdale Clear Lake in Texas.

“We know poetry serves as an outlet for emotional expressions, which are part of our overall well-being,” said Charles Richardson, Brookdale’s senior director of resident programs. “Using the written word to understand and communicate our feelings and thoughts can be therapeutic and a powerful release during these times of social distancing. We are thrilled with the response of over 300 original works, all unique and capturing the essence of each poet. It was no easy task to select winners.”

Here are the winning poems:

(Watch a video of John Artusa reciting his poem.)



Reflections on Covid-19
by John Artusa

And the mighty shall be

humbled by the small:

Unseen by the human eye,

It threw the nations

into panic and despair.

Faint reminders of mortality

As we proudly

Reach for the stars.


(Click on the author's picture to watch a video of them reciting their poem.)


Things I Can't Live Without
by Laverne Jacobsen             

Sunlight – as its brightness beckons me to arise,

-as it bakes the sand but pierces the waves, turning them blue-green with a frothy, white frosting, crashing into a plateau of glittering pebbles, slowly crawling up the beach,

-as it filters through the deep autumn leaves, creative stained-glass windows of vibrant red and majestic gold,

-as it penetrates the melting icicle turning it into a prism rainbow,

-as it bestows its warmth on the newest yellow-bright daffodil of spring.

                Moonlight-as it softens the earth into a round, rolling carpet,

-as it stands as a beacon among the white, diamond-sparkling stars,

-as it spreads its shimmering brilliance across the effervescent blue surface of a rippling lake.

                Mankind-as a myriad kaleidoscope of color and regions,

-as a fascinating study of good and evil,

-as a glowing warmth of long-lasting friends,

-as a comforting tender love of family, both old and young.

                God-as the supreme loving being, creator of this unique universe,

-as the maker of me, able to savor with all my senses, and to appreciate, love and enjoy all of my wonderful world.

                These things I cannot live without.




                                   by Terry M. Anderson                                    

                                      I stand before you at age 93:

                                      ...with cane in hand and wobbly knee,

                                      ...with but one ear to hear...one eye to see

                                      And sometimes too quick...or slow...to pee,

                                      ...at other times, it seems to me

                                      ...that 2  +  2 should =  3.

                                      Figuratively, I seem to be

                                      ...an old dented & road-weary Model T.


                                      But whatever the 'cost'...to The Original Me

                                      I think I've spent it wise-a-ly

                                      ...for education, Army hitch, a wife & fam-i-lee

                                      ...for sturdy friends, who through thick & thin

                                         have stood along beside me.


                                       And now, I'm grateful as can be

                                       ...for what is left of The Original Me.

                                       ...which, will power me on my road's jour-ney

                                          toward MY WAITING JUBILEE.



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