Neurologists have a host of clinical tests that let them observe what a brain-damaged patient can and cannot do.
I'm a writer who simply can't know what I'm writing about until the writing lets me discover it. In a sense, my writing process embraces the gapped nature of my memory process, leaping across spaces that represent all I've lost and establishing fresh patterns within all that remains.
Dementia is, after all, a symptom of organic brain damage. It is a condition, a disorder of the central nervous system, brought about in my case by a viral assault on brain tissue. When the assault wiped out certain intellectual processes, it also affected emotional processes.
When Beverly and I got together in 1992, and I moved to be with her in the little round house she'd built in the middle of 20 acres of woods near Amity, I found myself immersed in a natural setting that I responded to with all my being.
In the spring of 1993, I married Beverly and moved to the woods. This is something I could never have imagined myself doing.
Science trumps magical thinking: there was a reason the Incas called their mercury mine 'la mina de los muertos,' the mine of the dead. Building a life and a community upon principles that ignore such realities is doomed to fail.
I feel that I'm a poet first. Not only was poetry the first genre in which I wrote, it's the genre that serves as the basis for my practice as a writer.
My wife is a painter, musician, and fiber artist. We married in 1993, and as she worked, I found that my reading about art was helping me understand what she was doing, just as seeing her work gave me a language with which to speak of art.
In 'A Poetics of Optics,' Equi writes that 'all images bank on alchemy.' This idea captures her fundamental sense of poetry as turning common material into something rare and valuable.
I think one of the primary themes in my work is the paradox of memory, at once fundamental to our sense of who we are and yet elusive, ever-changing, fragmentary. One way to look at this is to say that, therefore, we ourselves are elusive, ever-changing and fragmentary to ourselves.
Though my poems are about evenly split between traditionally formal work that uses rhyme and meter and classical structure, and work that is freer, I feel that the music of language remains at the core of it all. Sound, rhythm, repetition, compression – these elements of my poetry are also elements of my prose.
Fiction about mining has a long tradition – Emile Zola's 'Germinal' and Upton Sinclair's 'King Coal' come to mind – and most readers will be aware of the industry's harsh conditions.
For those who turn to literary biography for salacious details, 'Flannery' will disappoint. It is the biography of someone who had very little chance to live in the conventional sense, to experience events.
One of the strangest aspects of living with certain kinds of memory loss is knowing that the forgetting is happening.
In 1964, at the age of 39, Flannery O'Connor died from complications of lupus. She had lived with this autoimmune disease for 14 years, primarily confined to her mother's farm, Andalusia, in Milledgeville, Ga.
I became demented overnight. Sudden onset is one factor that distinguishes my form of dementia from the more common form associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Dementia resembles delirium in the same way an ultra-marathon resembles a dash across the street. Same basic components, vastly different scale. If you've run delirium's course once or twice in your life, try to imagine a version that never ends.
Most people imagine music playing in their heads, but some hallucinate music; some cannot sleep because of the soundtrack in their mind.
'The Art Student's War' is, at its core, a traditional American wartime love story. As such, it is timely and engrossing. By the end, all its principal characters 'have been to Hell and back.'
In question-and-answer sessions after a reading or during an interview, I forget the question if I'm giving too long an answer. And at the end, I can't remember any of the questions. The more anxious I am about remembering, the more likely I am to forget.
I've forgotten what it's like to remember. I've lost the mindless confidence that a moment, an idea, a thought will be there for me later, the bravado of breezing through experience in the certainty that it will become part of my self, part of my story.
Eliza Factor's first novel, 'The Mercury Fountain,' explores what happens when a life driven by ideology confronts implacable truths of science and human nature. It also shows how leaders can inflict damage by neglecting the real needs of real people.
Through his long, productive career, Paul Theroux has mixed nonfiction books about exotic travel with novels set in exotic places. Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Honduras – he lives in and writes about places most of us never see.
Music seems hard-wired into our very being. It moves us, stirs us to action, sets us in motion, sticks in our memories and minds.
My cerebral cortex, the gray matter that MIT neuroscientist Steven Pinker likens to 'a large sheet of two-dimensional tissue that has been wadded up to fit inside the spherical skull,' is riddled instead of whole.
At 93, so deep in dementia that she didn't remember any details of her life, my mother somehow still knew songs.
Flannery O'Connor's brief life and slim output were nonetheless marked by piercing powers of observation.
Elaine Equi has been publishing her observant, often playful poetry for some 30 years, extending and deepening the range of her intrinsically wry voice.
I used to be able to think. My brain's circuits were all connected, and I had spark, a quickness of mind that let me function well in the world.
If I don't write down a thought – or an image or a line of poetry – the instant it comes to mind, it vanishes, which explains why I have pens and notebooks in my pants and coat pockets, the car, the bicycle basket, on one or two desks in every room including bathrooms and the kitchen.
A new laboratory technique, positron emission tomography, uses radioactively labeled oxygen or glucose that essentially lights up specific and different areas of the brain being activated when a person speaks words or sees words or hears words, revealing the organic location for areas of behavioral malfunction.
A risk for a poet-novelist is imbalance: The poems can flatten into prose or lose their intensity of focus; the novels can stall amid lofty writing or literary preciousness and ignore the engine of plot and character.