Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Almost all of the poetry I had read up until now has been contemplative and meditative on landscape, life and other matters that have trouble the poet in question. Vertigo & Ghost is utterly different to anything I have read poetry-wise. Fiona Benson’s new collection is divided into two parts, but before that begins with a poem called Ace of Bass. This concerns some girls on a tennis court who can feel the hormones coursing through themselves as they awaken sexually.

 

Hormones poured into me

Like an incredible chemical cocktail

 

The first part consists of 30 odd poems about Zeus. These are powerful, visceral prose that portrays him as a serial rapist, where woman are prey and sex is weaponised. The anger in these poems is quite something, but it is a response to the modern world where women are still subject to personal attacks on a daily basis.

The second half of the book is a much more personal reflection on her life, with poems on family, depression and the delights and fears of motherhood. It is a much slower pace unlike the first part that had a great sense of urgency to it,

For we are tracks in the dew

Vanishing at dawn,

We are mist, we are rain,

We are gone

This is not the easiest read for anyone who, like me, hasn’t read much poetry, but these things need to be read. I really liked what they had done with the physical layout of the words for some of the poems, it added a certain amount of dynamics to the page that added to the fieriness of the prose. I much preferred the second half of the book to the first, but it is a book I will be keeping and will read again.

My three favourite poems were:

Wood Song

Almond Blossom

Blue Heron

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