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.
When and where do you prefer to write?
As I am a full-time carer and home-educator for my son, writing tends to have to be fitted in around these demands. I don’t so much have a room of one’s own as a corner of one’s own to write in — but I love my little space that I have carved out. I sit at an old pine table, in my comfy chair, surrounded by piles of books. Usually, the cat joins me too and, as he is old, he accompanies my writing with loud snores from the bed where he sleeps.
Do you need peace and quiet when you are writing?
Ideally, yes but life isn’t always like that. I wrote a lot of the drafts for To Start The Year From Its Quiet Centre at the side of the swimming pool, whilst my son had his swimming lessons!
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Joan Didion, or Wendell Berry. Actually, there are lots of amazing writers I would love to co-write books with.
Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
Can I be the interesting one? I like characters to have the capacity to be both good and bad, like we all do.
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I find asking questions quite awkward so the idea of interviewing someone causes some anxiety, but if the interview can be more like getting to know someone, then I think I would have enjoyed getting to know Louise Bourgeois. Or Vanessa Bell.
Where can I find you when you are reading?
Anywhere I can find a space to do so. Bath, bed, sofa. If the weather is warm, then I like to sit outside in the garden under the greengage tree, or by the vegetable patch.
Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading?
Looking after my son. We home educate (even before the pandemic) so we are usually at home or around the local area. We live rurally, so this would be fields or out by the beck. I live with chronic illness, so I don’t tend to get very far. Mind you, no one has gone far this last year!
What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
It was very emotional this time, as it told the story of caring for my mother. It was strange, because I felt really proud of having the courage to write the poems but I also wished I’d never had the poems to write, because then it would have meant that my mother hadn’t been sick and hadn’t died.
How do you come up with a title for your book?
This title came from the last poem, and it felt the right one because, for me, it says a lot about grief — that it isn’t a linear ‘stages of grief’ thing but a cyclical thing — the same as life is. At the centre of all the suffering and the pain, there is the quiet centre of love. That is why I chose this as the title.
How do you pick a cover for your book?
Although I love it, and it fits really well, I didn’t pick this cover — it is a shared cover design for all the Indigo Poetry Pamphlets, and was chosen by the publishers at Indigo Dreams. If I had chosen the cover myself, it would have been from one of my mother’s paintings.
Thank you, Victoria Bennett and Fly on the Wall Press
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.