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Articles & Reviews

Storms of the Inland Sea: Poems of Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiving

edited by Margaret Stawowy and Jim Cokas

“An affecting and expertly arranged set of poetic works.”
      — Kirkus Reviews







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Poets Margaret Stawowy and Jim Cokas both experienced a personal metamorphosis while caring for a parent with dementia. While answering a higher calling to care for someone with grace, forbearance, and love, the reality is that such commitment is often accompanied by burnout, financial worries, loneliness, loss of loved ones as we once knew them, and hard choices. Despite the difficulty of the situation, caregivers must learn to weather the practical and emotional storms that are sure to occur. Stawowy and Cokas chose to curate this literary collection, wishing they had had poems such as these to carry them through their difficult experience. The result of their efforts is a powerful and insightful book that can help future caregivers navigate the uncharted and unpredictable seas of caring for patients with dementia.

POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Death, Grief, Loss

ISBN: 978-1-956056-40-2 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2022939914

Released October 2022 / Copyright 2022

196 pages


Austin Alexis • Pam Baggett • Marsha Barber • Walter Bargen • Myra Ward Barra • Charles Becker
Richard M. Berlin • Alan Bern • Sandra Berris • Jeff Burt • Dane Cervine • Marion Deutsche Cohen • Jim Cokas • Joy Colter
John Davis • Albert DeGenova • Sandra Dreis • Kelly DuMar • Jo Angela Edwins • Ann Farley • Zoe FitzGerald-Beckett • Alice Friman
Leslie Gerber • Lenora Rain-Lee Good •Tzivia Gover • Nancy Walker Greenaway • Penny Hackett-Evans • Vanessa Haley
Therese Halscheid • Jim Hanlen • Pauletta Hansel • Marc Harshman • Barbara Hill • Jack Hitchner • Andrea Hollander • Paul Hostovsky
Holly J. Hughes • Theresa Hupp • Rick Kempa • Claire Keyes • Patricia Lapidus • Sherri H. Levine • Iris Litt • Joel Long • Kathleen Lynch
Marjorie Maddox • Eileen Malone • Herbert Woodward Martin • Charlotte McCaffrey • Mariana Mcdonald • Robin Michel •
Pamela A. Mitchell • Felicia Mitchell • Tara Moghadam • Judith H. Montgomery • Tim J. Myers • Ashley Pacholewski • David M. Parsons
Yvonne Pearson • Ellen Peckham • Pamela Peté • Yvonne Postelle • Wanda S. Praisner • Burt Rashbaum • J. E. Robinson
Susan Roney-O’Brien • Carrie Rose Evon • Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld • Mary Harwell Sayler • Mary Ellen Shaughan • Matthew Sisson
Paul Sohar • Marian Brown St Onge • Margaret Stawowy • Doreen Stock • Wally Swist • Susan Terris • Carol Tyx • Tony Vick
Karen Villesvik • Michael Waters • Michele Wolf • Joseph Zaccardi • Andrena Zawinski


“The pain of losing a loved one to dementia is life-altering. A grandmother forgets the names of her grandchildren. A daughter becomes the caretaker for her mother as her mother grows more and more confused. The story is familiar but nothing prepares one for the emotional toll it takes: contradictory, repetitive, heartbreaking, irrational, as vast as the ocean itself. The poems in Storms of the Inland Sea illuminate a subject that too often exists in shadows. If dementia is a disease of confusion and obfuscation, a dismantling of self and memory, the poems in this powerful anthology are an act of grace and remembrance, a way of bearing witness to the true human mercies we find in the face of overwhelming loss.”
Kai Carlson-Wee, poet and visual artist; author of Rail

“A father lost in ‘the cave of memory,’ a mother ‘slow as rain,’ a husband calling out the only name he remembers—his wife’s, or a daughter listening to the last words of a phone call, ‘I’ll miss you/ remind me/ what’s your name.’ These are the people in the eye of the storm, holding on to one another in the eerie stillness of confusion, living deep in the heartache of loss.”
Dorianne Laux, author of Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected Poems, named a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

“Caregiving for loved ones in cognitive decline presents a world filled with uncertainty, grief, and unexpected familial dynamics. While we long for clarity from a neuroscience perspective into the management of Alzheimer’s or dementia, we can find comfort in sharing thoughts on how to confront the overwhelming realities of caregiving. This anthology of narrative creativity provides a means to reflect on common experiences and inspire others to express inner emotions provoked by the social life of illness. The editors are to be congratulated for thinking broadly about healthcare narratives and the impact of disease on all who care for others.”
Dr. Brian Dolan, Professor and Chair, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, UCSF; and General Editor, University of California Medical Humanities Press

Storms of the Inland Sea is an invaluable book for health professionals, formal and informal care providers, and family members of patients living with dementia. Although decades ago it was considered unliterary to write poems about illness, in the intervening years we have seen a burgeoning body of poetry about illnesses such as cancer and mental illness. Surprisingly, despite the devastating toll Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have taken, we have seen relatively few collections of poetic works devoted to this subject, which makes the current work particularly welcome. Through metaphor and imagery, such as is evinced in the anthology’s title, this remarkably moving collection by adult children, spouses, and other both professional and colloquial caregivers shows the constant struggle between acknowledging all that is gone while embracing whatever remains. The poems explore the meaning of love, even as the self of the person who is loved and loves is vanishing. Through accounts of everyday behaviors such as taking a bath, making coffee, or shopping for clothes, we experience both the devastation and revelation that dementia leaves in its wake. As readers, we become witnesses to the constant efforts of devoted caregivers to stay connected with the strange new people their loved ones are becoming, even as they offer tantalizing reminders of who they once were. These are voices all too rarely heard, but through these poems we are privileged to hear them, if only we will listen.”
Johanna Shapiro, PhD, Professor Emerita, Department of Family Medicine, University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.

Articles and Reviews

Kirkus Review, August 23, 2022
“An affecting and expertly arranged set of poetic works.”


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