In my new book, I have two poems called Clearing. ‘Clearing’ is a word that fascinates me. It’s a way of making space, letting in the light, clouds parting to permit the sun’s warmth. It’s the poignant emptying of a house no longer occupied, and the current fad for minimalism. It’s playing god in the garden, deciding what can grow and what must perish.

After what was, for me, in spite of everything, a glorious summer of long walks, garden gatherings, music and swimming, I became ill in September. On the ward, two words kept echoing in my mind – ‘gentle’ and ‘kind’. Sometimes, I heard them as descriptors, sometimes they were silent pleas. Not all nurses are angels.

When I came home from hospital, I immediately picked up one of my most treasured collections, Going Gentle by Fiona Owen, published by Gomer Press.

That beautiful cover image, Francis and the Turtle-Doves, is by Greg Tricker.

The poem that keeps calling me back on this reading, is Clearing. It is quite long, which I value, as I’m losing my tolerance for the fragmented world of sound-bites. It has a subtle soundscape and compelling musicality.

Fiona’s poem is about many things but for me today, it speaks mostly of the need to heal, not just our individual selves, but the world around us, especially the more-than-human world of creatures, plants, rivers and woods. Nothing stands alone. The rivers are in us. The fly-tipped sofa is ours. We are the boys throwing coke cans. Snow will come to sanctify us. We do what we can, and, yes, it’s a time for singing.

My warmest thanks to Fiona for her friendship, and her poems which touch on the miraculous, and permission to reproduce Clearing here.

Apologies for the odd gap in the middle. You can imagine turning the page there as you slowly read it aloud! Blocks and paragraphs kept doing strange things to the line breaks when I typed out the poem, so in the end I resorted to images.

Later today, I will go and pay homage to the beautiful River Stour that braids its way through the very beating heart of Canterbury.


  1. Tania Bartlett October 8, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing … sorry to hear you have been unwell and yes not all nurses are kind. Hospital can be a traumatic endurance course.
    All the best

    • Victoria October 8, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      Indeed it can! Thank you for engaging, Tania. It’s appreciated.

  2. Katherine Pierpoint October 8, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, I also love Suzy Gablik’s work on art and seeing, as well as Fiona Owen’s, and of course yours. Stay well!

  3. Katie October 9, 2020 at 9:14 am

    I love this image of the sofa abandoned…what is left behind of the family enduring in the river…

    Thank you for sharing this, Vicky. I’m glad you’re well now. Hospitals are places where epiphanies come, I’ve found, and I’m glad you’re home now. Xx

    • Victoria October 9, 2020 at 9:21 am

      Thanks so much Katie, hope you are keeping well, and yes, had an epiphany or two! xx

  4. Anne October 9, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    Beautiful poem, Vicky. So sorry to hear you’ve been unwell. x

  5. Carolann Samuels October 9, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Dear Vicky

    I’m so sorry you’ve not been well, and that your experience was not as good as it could have been. I do hope you are better now.
    And thank you for sharing the poem, which I am so pleased to have read.

  6. Brigid October 9, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    Sending you lots of love and positive thoughts. I like the poem very much. Keep safe and well Vicky – I hope the river heals you XXX

  7. Claire Berlyn October 9, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Dear Vicky, sorry to hear you’ve been unwell, hope you’re on the mend now. Thanks for sharing this poem. Lots of love xx

  8. Ruth Middleton October 12, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Hi Victoria,
    I’ve just read your blog and Fiona’s poem again. Thank you for sharing your experiences and beautiful words. I met you both several years back, possibly 2012, at Ty Newydd. The course was very important to me and, having just last week undertaken an Arvon course, I’ve been revisiting much of what I learnt and enjoyed there.
    I hope you are recovering well. I enjoy reading your words and appreciate sharing your insights on the world we share.
    Very best wishes,

    • Victoria October 12, 2020 at 10:47 am

      Dear Ruth
      What an absolute delight to hear from you. I remember those weeks at Ty Newydd so vividly and meeting you there, although the years tend to get a bit mixed up! Was it really 2012? I’m so pleased you are still writing and revisiting what you learned and enjoyed there. Sending my very warmest wishes.

  9. patricia murphy October 12, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    It’s always a great pleasure and joy to read your blog Victoria.
    The Beaney Poetry group has been meeting remotely all year : I tried to engage but I’m spending so much time in front of a screen these days with work , the medium just didn’t work for me and actually made me feel sad and a wee bit agitated.
    However, I do make time every week to read and write poetry – the groups enduring legacy, and I will always be grateful to you for ‘clearing’ that space for everyone.
    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a spell in hospital and hope your vitality is now restored.
    I’ve been spending a lot of time in hospital with my husband and can concur that not all nurses are angels.
    I’m finding that my tolerance for those that have decided to address my husband as ‘sweetheart’ , ‘my love ‘ and ‘petal’ is now paper thin and I’m not sure I trust myself around them anymore ;-)
    Warm wishes to you always.

    • Victoria October 12, 2020 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks so much Patricia – must blog more, it’s so good to connect. Actually, I didn’t mind the terms of endearment and the nurses were kind to me, but some of the treatment I witnessed of others depressed me. I am sorry to hear you have been spending time in hospital with your husband. They are strange and not necessarily healing places. Warmest wishes to you.

  10. Theresa Kelly October 25, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Vicky,
    Sorry to hear that you have been unwell but it sounds like you are now on the mend. A period of illness can lead us to be more introspective and to relook at the ‘sound bites’ and I am with you in your impatience for them. I also felt the ‘turbulence’ of the poet as she observed the behaviour of the boys but welcome your suggestion that we are the boys and the sofa tipping family and that we can all be purified and start again. Really enjoyed your blog and the poem and of course the illustration. Stay well.

    • Victoria October 25, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks so much Theresa, good to hear from you. Hope you are keeping well.

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