Today dear readers I am honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre (Published Paperback 17/08/2020 By Indigo Dreams Publishing) By Victoria Bennett. A big thank you to Isabelle from Kenyon Author Services for sending me a copy to read/review and also to take part in the blog tour, always appreciated.
To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre
These poems are an intimate meditation on love and loss, told by a daughter as she cares for her mother through terminal mesothelioma. The poet invites the reader to be witness to the private moments of dying, from the physical reality of caregiving through to the alchemy of death, telling the story of a relationship between women that is transformed through grief. Honest, unsentimental, and quietly uplifting.
About The Author
Victoria Bennett founded Wild Women Press in 1999 and has spent the last 21 years facilitating creative experiences and curating platforms for women to share ideas, stories, inspirations and actions for positive change, including the global #WildWomanWeb movement and #WildWomanGamer. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University (2002). Previous awards include the Northern Debut Award for non-fiction (2020), the Mother’s Milk Writing Prize (2017), The Writing Platform Digital Literature Bursary (2015), Northern Promise Award for Poetry (2002), and the Waterhouse Award for Poetry (2002). Her work-in-progress memoir, ‘All My Wild Mothers’, was long-listed for the Nan Shepherd Nature Writing Prize 2019 and the Penguin #WriteNow2020 programme. Victoria is currently undertaking her MRes in Creative Practice at the University of Highlands and Islands (Shetland), exploring narratives of absence within landscapes of personal and ecological loss. She is a director of The Wizard and The Wyld Ltd, creating immersive playable poetry within video-game platforms. A frequent digital collaborator, she interested in how poetry and new technologies can be used to create meaningful and authentic narratives.
Be prepared to have the tissues at the ready dear reader as this collection of poetry will leave you a sobbing mess. These poems are told by a daughter as she cares for her mother through terminal mesothelioma. The curtain is pulled back on those last precious private moments as the reader bears witness to the reality of looking after a beloved parent as they slowly fade away.
The themes of loss, grief, death and love are delicately woven throughout Bennett’s poetry. The reader undertakes the journey of loss with her. They watch the story of the relationship between women unravel, the love and care they feel towards each other is everlasting in this world and the next.
What I admired about this collection was how honest Bennett is about death. There’s no escaping the truth that it will soon come and it’s a matter of waiting the quiet hours away. When I read The Suede Shoes I was filled with a comforting reassurance that life will go on. The hens are scratching outside as the bees continue to collect their nectar. Bennett questions why bother planting seeds and buying pretty suede shoes but then answers with the truth of it all. There will always be a summer even after a loved one is gone and there is still joy to be found in every step. She shows the reader that even in the most difficult of times there is still good news to be found. It brings a little ray of hope and gentle reminder that we will find the strength to cope and slowly carry on. For now we make the most of what we have by drinking tea and watching the clouds together.
There were moments when bursts of colour in Bennett’s poetry would make a pleasant appearance. In When Did We Stop Bringing Flowers Bennet brings her mother flowers as she wanted to bring the garden she so loving cared for inside. I felt as though I was watching a montage as the flowers would change with the seasons and in doing so her mother slowly began to shed her petals too. It was beautifully done and I shed a tear when the mother took her daughter’s hand and asked “Why am I not dead?” Bennett captures the raw delicate reality of how fragile life is and that we will all slowly shed our leaves and fall gracefully back into the earth.
These poems are filled with such intense emotion that they become difficult to read at times because of the tears that are filling your eyes. The reader watches Bennett care for her mother in The New Nightdress, grooming, brushing and dressing her. For anyone to undertake the role of caring for a parent as they near the end is a heartbreaking task. To have the roles reversed is a lot to get your head around but you devotedly take over. Love and family mean everything, they are worth it all. Every second is a gift.
We also get a small glimpse into the mother’s point of view in Words For Dying To. The words are scattered all over the page representing her confusion and struggle to breathe. She has flashbacks of her childhood when her father looked out for bombs before returning to the present and having a dry mouth. This poem broke me and must have been hard for Bennett to write.
We quietly follow Bennett throughout this collection as she says her last goodbyes in The Last Vigil, to remembering memories and wishing to hold on in Cooking. She offers advice to the reader in How To Watch Someone Die and talks about how you have to accept that you cannot change any of this. It brings light to the reader that there is no right or wrong way to handle grief. There will come a time where you will let go and live but you will get there in your own time.
I give To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre By Victoria Bennett a Five out of Five paw rating.
This book will break you. Full of private moments and devastating truths Bennett will grant you access to some painful memories that may help comfort others in knowing they are not alone in their grief. Seriously dear reader, you will need a box of tissues to get through this. Trust me.
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!
Hop hop wiggle wiggle