Vicki Feaver retired to Scotland where she spends her time writing, painting, walking a huge black lurcher and avoiding housework. Her poetry has been described by Ted Hughes as ‘thin beautifully etched ice over such deep shocking water’ and by Sean O’Brien as ‘offering ‘a disquietingly direct apprehension of the powers by which we are made and driven’.
She resolved to be a poet as a child after finding a copy of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and reading it in bed by torchlight. It was an ambition that stayed in her head through a music degree, marriage, the births of four children and a move from Newcastle to a derelict former shop in South London.
Finally, after her youngest child started school, she joined a poetry a class at Morley College where Selima Hill was a fellow student. Since then, she has published four collections. The first, Close Relatives (Secker,1981) contained the much-anthologised poems ‘Slow Reader’ and ‘The Coat’. The second, The Handless Maiden (Cape 1994), containing the Costa prize-winning poem ‘Judith’, received a Heinemann Prize and Cholmondeley Award. The third, The Book of Blood (Cape 2006), was shortlisted for the Forward and Costa prizes. Her new collection, I Want!, I Want! (Cape, 2019), takes its title from the caption to Blake’s illustration, reproduced on the cover, of a child with one foot on a ladder reaching to the moon. The theme of wanting and ladders runs through the book, taking her from a childhood lived in the shadow of World War II to old age. The final poems reflect on the fears of old age – memory loss and the failing body – but they also celebrate moments of joy.