Margaret Stawowy’s ‘Storms of the Inland Sea’ Anthology is transforming for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

By Margaret Stawowy, California, USA


In August 2019, I returned to the Tuolumne Meadows Poetry Festival in Yosemite National Park. Once a regular attendee, I had put the Festival and many other activities on hold for five years due to caregiving for my mother with dementia. Her final year was fraught with complications and difficulties. Nonetheless, when she died, I found myself adjusting to my new post-caregiving identity. It was more complicated than I’d thought.

That weekend in the majestic Meadows, I connected with friends, old and new, including Jim Cokas who approached me after the open mic, where I had just read a poem about caregiving. Some years prior, Jim had been a caregiver for his father with Alzheimer’s and he’d also written poetry about providing care. We wondered, were there other poets out there who had written about the caregiving experience? Jim thought we should find out and possibly create a poetry collection. Though I believed that somebody had surely beaten us to this idea, I decided to do some research upon my return home. 

What I learned surprised me: While there were literary anthologies about Alzheimer’s and dementia, none of them approached the topic exclusively from the caregiving aspect via poetry.

But did caregivers even want a book of poetry? The general population tends to avoid contemporary poetry, possibly because it is considered too academic and difficult to comprehend. I could go on and on about why this is and who’s to blame. And yet, poetry could be perfect for time-pressed caregivers due to its ability to compress nuanced emotions and ideas in powerful images and expressions. Caregivers may have difficulty finding time to read a book, but not a poem or two. As for relatability, I like to think of the Duke Ellington quote: “There are two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind.” I believe that quote is applicable to poetry as well. 

Jim and I decided to take the next step: See what would happen if we posted a call for submissions in the classified section of every wordsmith’s go-to magazine, Poets & Writers. If we didn’t get enough work that reflected the searing reality of caregiving, we’d end it there. Of course, if we hadn’t received the quality of material we sought, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. But let me say, we were awed by the poetry received from a wide range of voices, some beginner, many highly accomplished. 

Storms of the Inland Sea is not only a book but also a testament from a community of caregivers. We encompass myriad situations and challenges. Some have had more resources and support than others, but none of us were ever granted an easy path.  We all have lost people dear to us before they die. How is it that the world seems genuinely ignorant of this tragedy? How can they not see caregivers as heroes on heroic journeys? 

Jim and I tried to create the kind of book we wished we could have turned to when we were caregivers. If it can be of service as an inspirational, transformational resource for others, then our hopes and goals will have been realized. 


About the Author

Margaret Stawowy’s poetry has won awards from Beyond Baroque, Atlanta Review, Naugatuck River Review, Carlow University’s Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, and the Soul-Making Keat’s Literary Competition. Her work has appeared in publications such as Little Patuxent Review, Kyoto Journal, West Marin Review, and the Marin Poetry Center Anthology, among others. 

Her first full-length poetry book was Keeper of the Pond (Conflux Press, 2017). A forthcoming poetry chapbook, Walking Backward, will be released by Kelsay Books in 2023. 

She is a longtime member of Marin Poetry Center where she served on the Board, including two years as Chair. 


Connect with Margaret:





Share the Post:

2 Responses

  1. Margaret,
    This post on LinkedIn comes at an opportune time. My brother is currently my sister-in-law‘a caregiver. I hope he’ll have time to read some of the poetry.

    I hope you are well. I think back fondly of our working relationship at Amoco.

    Sandy Crosby

  2. I am caring for my husband if 58 yrs. Who has Alzheimers. I have found that writing poetry in my quiet time in the morning has helped me through this difficult journey. I have published a book called “Words of Love-A Caregivers reflections through their dementia journey”. My prayer is to get it to the caregiving community. It id available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Subscribe to Our eNewsletter

SUBSCRIBE to our weekly eNewsletter! Be among the first to know about new authors, podcasts, events, and more for help on your dementia journey. As a welcome gift, you may download our FREE booklet “Caring for a Mother with Dementia,”  featuring 15 quality titles. Subscription is through You may unsubscribe at any time.

Support Our Mission

Your support enables us to continue to provide quality resources for dementia caregivers. We appreciate any donation. Thank you for your support!