In Leaving This World: A Poetry Collection, East Hampton resident Sondra Lynn crafts a prologue opening sentence that’s hard to ignore: “Because of Leukemia, I decided to write freely…” poems that are raw and “meant to stand together in a chorus (supporting each other like friends)”.
She hopes they can “bring more consciousness to [our] own dance with Mortality.” A practicing acupuncturist for years, Lynn found that poetry “transformed her healing realm” from body, mind and spirit to “the world of words, psyche and soul.” She says she feels well spiritually, though her body “is weakening fairly quickly,” but is “grateful to have done the hard work of coming to terms with my upcoming death and feel at peace now.” She adds that the New York branch of Compassion & Choices is making the book “a gift to donors at some of their fundraising events,” and that means that her “poetry can go out to a wider audience and help others facing death and those caring for and about the patient.”
The free-verse poems are short (87 are in this 98-page book). They move from Lynn being told she has cancer (“A tectonic plate of words fell out of/my doctor’s mouth—setting off an inky tsunami…”) to a final “Vision/My Wish,” as “God’s Light permeates into my/Yellow bedroom.” The last entry acknowledges in the past tense a breeze “Outside of what was once/My window.” This is her 56th year, as one poem indicates, and no doubt her last. It’s surprising that Lynn manages so much sentiment without falling into sentimentality, even as she pays loving tribute to her mom and devoted friends, sometimes by way of dialogue, though she favors the shaped poem, whose different line lengths provide emphasis. Though some poems express impatience with the cancer industry and acknowledge the pain of upcoming loss, the volume keeps to a controlled narrative arc, opening and closing with faith. As she notes, the book is called Leaving This World. Another awaits.