Storms of the Inland Sea: Poems of Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiving
edited by Margaret Stawowy and Jim Cokas
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)
Released October 2022 / Copyright 2022
Austin Alexis • Pam Baggett • Marsha Barber • Walter Bargen • Myra Ward Barra • Charles Becker
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Kirkus Review, August 23, 2022
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