I’ve featured quite a lot of poetry here on Linda’s Book Bag and was delighted when Isabelle Kenyon asked me if I’d like to participate in the blog tour for Victoria Bennett’s To Start the Year From Its Quiet Centre. I’m very pleased to share my review today.
To Start the Year From Its Quiet Centre is available for purchase in all the usual places including directly from publisher Indigo Dreams here.
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.
My Review of To Start the Year From Its Quiet Centre
A pamphlet of poems concerning loss.
Beautifully written, To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre celebrates Maureen Marie Bennett through her daughter’s evocative, sensitive and ultimately positive, records of the end of her life in a way I found deeply affecting.
The imagery of nature threads through the writing giving hope even when Victoria Bennett feels the pointlessness of planting bulbs her mother will never see flower. I loved the explanation of the tides in St Bees, November for example, as it gave me affirmation that life does continue after those we love have died.
I thought the fractured lines of Words For Dying To conveyed perfectly the confusion and fragmented mind of the dying; not only Victoria Bennett’s mother, but all those who find the end of their lives intangible and hard to control. This element gives a universal quality to To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre, making the poetry relatable for any reader.
I confess I was quite undone by The Last Vigil, having spent the last hours of my father’s life sitting with him with a similar experience to the 0.30am entry. Indeed, reading To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre was a very resonant and personal experience for me so that How To Watch Someone Die felt as if it had been written for me alone. It is this level of intimacy that makes Victoria Bennett’s collection so affecting.
The references to two other poets in To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre also add an extra dimension. I was aware of Thich Nhat Hahn after having visited Hue in Vietnam, but was ignorant of Neruda’s work so Victoria Bennett had me scurrying off to research and find out more. It’s a real joy to be educated through reading, so that To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre offers so much to Victoria Bennett’s audience as a catalyst in their own lives.
To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre may be a slim pamphlet of some 20 relatively short poems, but through them Victoria Bennett moves and mesmerises her reader, causing them to nod in agreement and recognition and to feel as if they have been healed by her writing because she shows their grief and experience is not unusual and that they are not alone. I adored this collection and feel privileged to have read it.
About Victoria Bennett
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.
For further information about Victoria, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @VikBeeWyld. You’ll also find Victoria on Instagram.
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