Books By The Book literature Singapore

By The Book: New poetry anthology ‘to let the light in’ shines spotlight on palliative care

This July, registered charities Sing Lit Station (SLS) and the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network (APHN) announced the launch of to let the light in, a poetry collection that gathers the voices of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and patients from across the region to address one of humanity’s most universal experiences: death. 

Over a six-month period in 2020, the two organisations solicited submissions on this difficult topic to increase awareness and appreciation of palliative and end-of-life care in the Asia Pacific region. 

“People often think that palliative care is only about care of the dying,” said Dr Cynthia Goh, Chairman of APHN. “It is not obvious how important this part of life is for personal growth and closure. Until we realize that the time is limited, we do not do many of the things we want and need to do – see that long-lost sibling, reconcile with an errant son or daughter, or someone we had wronged. To be able to say, “Sorry! Please forgive me,” or “I forgive you,” or “Thank you,” or “Good-bye!” are the most healing words for both sides.  Palliative care keeps physical symptoms at bay, and helps patients find their voice, and energy to do what is needed.”

The charities received a total of 840 thought-provoking submissions from all across the Asia Pacific. Submissions ranged from nostalgic poems about grandparents gently aging, to philosophical pieces attempting to make sense of mortality, to sobering poems written from the perspective of the dying patient. These submissions were then whittled down to just 111 poems. Based on the project’s intention to make this anthology a companion for those whose lives are touched by terminal illness, the editorial team also shortlisted poems based on the poet’s ability to clearly articulate the grief, pain, and delicate hope that exists from having walked alongside death. As such, the anthology includes not just established poets such as Dr Alvin Pang, Stephanie Chan, and Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé from Singapore; but also fresh voices from healthcare workers, students, caregivers, and doctors who have never written poetry before.

Joshua Ip, co-editor of the anthology and director of Sing Lit Station said, “Sing Lit Station often accepts projects to change how people feel about words by applying care. We chose this project because we wanted to change how people feel about palliative care by applying words. After reading through thousands of words across borders and languages, we have chosen these poems that without music or movie magic or multimedia, still managed to quietly move our hearts. We hope they will move yours.”

Due to the large scale of this ambitious project, the editorial team consists of 19 language editors led by Joshua Ip, Zaris Azira and Rajita Jay. The team included award-winning poets and translators from across the region such as Zakir Hossain & Tan Chee Lay from Singapore; Mikael Johani from Indonesia; Anuradha Singh from India; Kyoko Yoshida from Japan; Jack Jung from Korea; Mukul Dahal from Nepal; Jhoanna Cruz, Mesándel Arguelles, and Marne Kilates from the Philippines; Bhavna Khemlani from Thailand and Nhã Thuyên from Vietnam. 

While half of the selected pieces are in English, the rest are spread out across the various languages of the region. With submissions accepted in 15 languages from over 26 sectors, the final publication includes poems in English, Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Nepali, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. Non-English poems were reproduced in their original language alongside an English translation, to ensure that the anthology remains accessible to as many readers as possible. 

to let the light in: an anthology of life and death will be launched on fundraising platform, from 12th July – 13th August 2021. SLS and APHN are targeting a fundraising goal of $30,000 to distribute 1,000 copies of the book to end of life patients, caregivers, and healthcare workers through selected hospitals and hospices across Singapore. This campaign aims to increase awareness & appreciation for palliative care, as well as facilitate conversations in the community on the importance of end-of-life dignity. All donors will receive one copy of the book as a gesture of appreciation for their kind contribution. 

Members of the public can find out more about the poets through the video series that will be released on a weekly basis during the fundraising campaign. In these videos, selected contributors will be reading their poems and engaging in an interview to share their inspiration for their poetry, as well as to share their own personal experiences with palliative care. 

to let the light in: an anthology of life and death will be launched on fundraising platform, from 12th July to 13th August 2021. More information available here

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