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poetry

Reviews

A beautiful portrayal of love and loss

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,

weightless,

turning cartwheels […]

You leap from star

to star and then,

you are gone.

The quiet of the dark,

faint night-singing.

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,

and live.

‘To Start The Year From Its Quiet Place’ by Victoria Bennett is published by Indigo Dreams (2020).


		
				
								
	
Reviews

The colour of hope

Despite being written during the dark days of the pandemic, The Colour of Hope is full of beauty and splendour – based upon a simple idea: what makes people happy?

Former Young Poet of the Year, Jen Feroze, started the collection by writing a poem for a friend based upon three things which brought her joy. This evolved into forty-five heartfelt poems for forty-five women in the poet’s life, each unique yet echoing similar sentiments and images.

This book is a treasure chest stuffed with jewels. The poet’s ability to capture a moment and give it lasting definition is masterful, and though each poem is personal, the moments and objects are universally meaningful.

In poetry, repeated expressions and familiar symbols are sometimes ringed with a red pen, but here they take on the freshness of their original meaning. Bring on your rainbows, flowers, dawn skies, your sun-bathed afternoons, laughter and bubbles – for these are the things which have made our everyday beautiful during this time.

There are so many golden lines I wanted to pull off the page and hold close to my heart, as in ‘For Andri’:

‘This is a howl for summer unfettered. / For ageless hot nights, rich beats, / for salted hair and perfumed sky / and the ballroom of the stars’

‘FOR ANDRI’

The poet’s writings are evocative and full of wonder:

‘The warm winding of cats / like smoke around my ankles […] / In the hazy blue distance / the mountains rise. Cold and certain. / Full of their own stories.’

‘for sarah’

Born out of friendship, more than once in this collection we drink tea, sit a while, are drawn to small observations which imply shared time.

 ‘We’ll sip lemon-scented tea, / while the bees play drowsy symphonies / among the young flowers, / and the sun slips away to other gardens, / other distant shorelines.’

‘for gayle’

Food and drink must have featured on many lists, as a large number of these poems appeal to the sense of taste:

‘salt-bite of squid, lemon tanged; / bread that drips with golden oil, / sun-warmed green olives, / bigger than a thumb.’

‘For charlene’

My mouth is watering. Then there’s the (much missed) communal eating in ‘For Kate’:

‘happy chatter / on full stomachs. Pass the bread, / mop the sauce – every last glossy drop.’

‘For kate’

The rousing of senses closely linked to memory is highly effective at sharing an experience with the reader.

My favourite poem of the collection is ‘For Sophie’, which captures the blurry haze of having young children, and cherishes the loveliness of an idle Sunday morning breakfast:

‘Instinctively wrapping you in our arms / and our duvet when it’s too early / for adult brains to be awake.’

‘Then pancakes, the hot drop / and sizzle of batter and bacon / in the pink heart of the kitchen. / Pools of syrup on the table. / No rush to be anywhere but here.’

‘for sophie’

The sounds of ‘hot drop’, ‘batter and bacon’, the simple imagery, and the sense of time slowing down is  pure and joyous. The lull of each line invites the reader to step into the picture and savour each moment alongside its subjects.

What a wonderful example Jen Feroze is setting here. In today’s world, we are surrounded by politics, opinion, scandal and unreachable expectations, so it’s hardly a surprise we’re leaving a pandemic and stepping into a mental health crisis. The Colour of Hope is an important reminder – that gratitude, friendship, and seeking refuge in what’s around us is paramount in being well.

This is beautiful writing, full of gorgeous moments, a wonderful book to give as a gift for any lovely lady in your life (including you). To echo the poet’s closing line of the foreword: ‘Here’s to resilience. Here’s to joy. Here’ to hope.’

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I’m a nominee!

Try saying that after a glass of giggle juice…

I’m delighted to announce that my debut pamphlet Lost & Found has been nominated for the prestigious Michael Marks awards and submitted to the Poetry Book Society. The third poem in the sequence, ‘Social Distancing’ has also been put forward for the Pushcart Prize.

I’m grateful to Hedgehog Editor Mark Davidson for holding these poems in high regard and putting them out into the world. I’m heartily proud of this pamphlet, just for being born!

If you would like to order a copy of Lost & Found, visit my shop to buy an Ebook download (£2.99) or a deluxe first edition pamphlet with end papers (signed or annotated, if you wish). For a limited time, you can also enter any competition from Hedgehog Poetry Press with a purchase of the hard copy for FREE. So it could be YOUR collection on the shelf next year!

Many thanks to all who have purchased a copy of my pamphlet and supported me along the way. I’m extremely grateful x

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and tonight, your host will be… me?

I’ve attended my fair share of live events, open mics, slams and zoom poetry sessions, so imagine my glee when the fabulous and hugely talented Claire Dyer approached fellow poet Zannah Kearns and I to host Reading’s Poet’s Cafe? Of course, we jumped at the chance to be involved – it’s a fantastic event, always promising a diverse and rich array of voices. September’s night featured Angela France with her remarkable presentation to accompany readings from The Hill. We had a blast – overcame technological issues (thanks to the good grace of Angela), and managed to host a wonderful event with almost forty poets attending from as far as Canada, California and (ahem) Caversham.

So what next? We are delighted to be hosting Reading Poetry Jam – a wonderful evening featuring five dazzling poets to celebrate National Poetry Day 2020, and this year’s theme is Vision. Tickets are now on sale, with all funds raised going to support South Street Arts Centre in Reading. What a wonderful thing to be a part of on so many levels. But what’s really important to me is this opportunity to help bring together an event which shows poetry to be what is should be: accessible, entertaining, relatable, clever, diverse and inclusive. I really can’t wait to see such a promising collective of poets perform together for the first time – well – ever!

I am filled with gratitude to find myself in the position of hosting this kind of event – it reminds me how much I believe in the power of ‘the right words in the right order’ (thank you, Coleridge) to reignite a glow in the hearts and souls of those who wish to hear.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

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I am officially a lover

What nicer news to receive on an idle Sunday than that you’ve been shortlisted for a poetry competition, only to then to be announced the winner.

This is a double joy for me – not only has the win picked me up and slapped me about the face a bit in the self belief department, it also means that my poem written for long-suffering husband gets an airing. So there, I AM romantic – let it be known!

This competition, the 2nd Annual Cupid’s Arrow Love Poetry Competition, really got me thinking about who we love, what we love about them – or perhaps just the little things we love about the everyday. This brought me back to one of our most successful Inkpot exercises: to list 99 things you love.

It’s that simple, and writing down all those things that make your everyday special has a profound effect on all who try it. There’s no need for poetics at this point, just a list. You will probably find some writing emerges in the process of the activity, but if it doesn’t, no matter – I can assure you, it won’t be wasted effort, as I’m lucky enough to have found.

Not only am I grateful for the kindness and generosity of Hedgehog Press Editor Mark Davidson, for the recognition at a time of self-doubt, but also for focusing the minds of all who entered on the positives in life, and showing appreciation for those we love. Hurrah, indeed.

For more info: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/2020/08/02/the-2nd-annual-cupids-arrow-competition-results/

Photo by KS KYUNG on Unsplash