Friday, September 9, 2011

The Radiation Sonnets by Jane Yolen

I literally just closed the back cover of this book and it's one of those books that I just had to write about right away. Though I suspect that with this book, I could wait a year to write this review and those thoughts would still be there. I just happened upon this book on Paperback Swap the other day and decided to request it. It's poetry. By Jane Yolen. Can't be bad, right? Right...not only can it not be bad, but it's some of the absolute most moving poetry I've ever read. I'd put it in the same category as Katrina Vandenberg's Atlas. Though they have very different topics, the feelings that they induced were the same. This is not "hard to read" so much of it is to me. It's's's hard to read in that emotional sense. But it's easily understood as it comes from the heart and the head. Jane Yolen wrote this book as her husband was receiving radiation treatments for an inoperable cancerous tumor in his skull. She set out from the beginning to write a poem each night after he received radiation. The choice to publish these poems was made afterwards, to help others going through the same thing. As you can imagine, these are tough poems to read. But they're oh so beautiful and I'm so very happy that I stumbled upon this book. There are many poems that bring a tear to the eye, but there are those that cause laughter too. Yolen addresses the idea of death...of losing her partner of 40 years. She chronicles his days, his lack of appetite, loss of hair, his pains, his triumphs, her weaknesses along the way. And she does it all so beautifully. I think we all know someone who's been taken by cancer or who has beaten cancer. I have a cousin that died a couple of years ago after a years long battle with breast cancer. I just recently had a scare that my father could have pancreatic cancer...he doesn't. But in that moment when the doctor said that he could, my world changed. I can't imagine if a battle with cancer had ensued. I think Yolen does such a remarkable job in capturing this process. I have no other words to recommend this book aside from you really must read this one...absolutely beautiful. Here's the first sonnet in the collection: Day 1: A Promise to Eurydice Do not go my love - oh, do not leave me so soon Familiar halls and rooms that know your touch. I want another April, May and June, I want - oh still the wanting is so much. What - forty years gone by? Why need we more When those before us fill us both with dread? Oft times I see you staring out the door As though you're longing for the path ahead. We go then, hand in hand, into the deep, Each day a visit to the blank machines. Those promises we made we mean to keep, By these mechanicals or other means. And if alone you chance that endless track, I'll bring you home without once looking back. (P. 1)

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