Knight in The Sun
Knight in The Sun
a reading response by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor
When the August issue of The Sun arrived in the mail this summer, I noticed right away an essay in called “The Substantial Dark,” by Lynne Knight. Was that our Lynne Knight, I wondered, meaning the poet who has appeared here at Escape Into Life, with wonderful map-and-human images by Ed Fairburn—geographical maps, celestial maps, somehow aligning with Knight’s poems as maps of the soul.
Indeed it was, and is!
Knight’s essay is an account of the decline of her mother—into dementia, moments of despair, and, yes, the substantial dark that is death. Recently and steadily, coinciding with the aging of its editor and publisher, Sy Safransky, The Sun has been giving its readers many perspectives on aging, dying, grieving, and what we mean by a “good death.” I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve been glad that my parents became subscribers to The Sun during this exploration, as we’ll all have this in common as they, both in their 80s, face the substantial dark themselves.
Knight’s essay moved me in many ways, and I feel very connected to her now, as my mother, too, read us the poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” when we were little. I acquired my love of reading in general and poetry in particular from my mother and from bedtime stories and poems. Our mothers share a love of the Romantic poets, as well. Knight looks at her mother with tenderness, humor, and awe. Her memory piece is an excellent read.
The “substantial dark” is Knight’s translation of substantia nigra, an area of the brain affected by Parkinson’s. Knight’s mother’s dementia resembled Alzheimer’s (which runs in my mother’s family) but may have been something called “Lewy body dementia, which advances more rapidly.” For various reasons, dementia diagnoses tend to fall into substantial darkness, contributing to the frustration of both sufferers and caregivers, but Knight and her mother made their way through the darkness with love, persistence, and goodwill.
I highly recommend this essay and this magazine to you. The Sun is a print magazine with no ads. It has a website with some shorter content and excerpts of longer pieces. You can find an excerpt from “The Substantial Dark” here, and Knight’s substantial poems here. Brace yourself. The poems will grip you. So will her essay. Find the August Sun, and go into its dappled light.