I was told I’d need tissues. Indeed, Victoria Bennett’s poetry about her mother’s passing evoked much emotion from me – but not always in the way I’d expected.
In To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre, the poet spares us the dramatics, instead staying true to the title and portraying death with calm observation of the details, seemingly small in many cases, but deeply meaningful. So attentively put together, this pamphlet is filled with a warmth which I found ultimately uplifting.
‘The Suede Shoes’ opens the collection. The first line of which reads ‘No good news from now’. But the poem continues:
Why bother planting that seed?
Why turn the beds
for a summer that will never come?
Why bother buying the pretty suede shoes?
We choose the shoes because
we can still find joy in a step.
We plant the seed because
we still love the way
it insists itself into life.
In its final line, the poem confirms: ‘and there is still good news.’
Of course, there is anger within these pages. Where there is love and loss, this is inescapable. But there is also a furious energy which liberates, at once brutal and bright.
At night, I brush your weeping hair,
button the new nightdress,
fingers tender like a mother’s,
tracing each lace flower.
When she can no longer move,
the doctor cuts it from her skin,
frees her flesh from its hold.
This garden has grown wild.
This freedom in death is further explored in ‘The Last Vigil’:
I almost missed you leaving.
You travel upwards,
turning cartwheels […]
You leap from star
to star and then,
you are gone.
The quiet of the dark,
Next, in ‘December Hovers On The Advent Hour’, the poet writes ‘I am sure I hear you laughing, riding / the back of the storm, all the way.’
The aforementioned tissues are indeed a requirement when reading Victoria Bennet’s pamphlet. But what I draw from my multiple readings of it is a message of love which shines through the sadness, inextinguishable, making the grief worth surviving.
A perfect example can be found in the final lines of ‘How To Watch Someone Die’:
watch the morning come.
Try all over again
to let go,
‘To Start The Year From Its Quiet Place’ by Victoria Bennett is published by Indigo Dreams (2020).