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Vertigo and Ghost Reviews

Vertigo and Ghost by Fiona Benson

Vertigo & Ghost

Fiona Benson

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Poetry, Non-fiction
Imprint: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 3 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9781787330818

It sounds out the complex and ambivalent terrain of early motherhood - its anxieties and claustrophobias as well as its gifts of tenderness and love - reclaiming the sanctuary of domestic private life, and the right to raise children in peace and safety.

  • The Daily TelegraphBook of the Year
4 stars out of 5

"poems of lasting power"

That Zeus sequence has generated a lot of (justified) buzz, but its shock fades on rereading. The poems of lasting power come in the second half, where Benson returns to the lyricism of her 2014 debut Bright Travellers... The best are her vivid, bloody evocations of childbirth, “that torrent of muscle”, and a heart-rending love poem to her husband. She has a fine ear for consonance and assonance... The collection is dedicated to Robin Robertson, her editor, and shares his poetry’s musk of myth, twigs and viscera, but Benson’s core influences are older. 


4 stars out of 5
Kate Kellaway
21 Jan 2019

"Benson’s extraordinarily moving collection is a bold confrontation of violence against women"

In her much-feted debut, Bright Travellers, Benson showed a talent for exploring domestic subjects and for properly recognising their importance. Here, a handful of wonderful poems about her daughters and husband spend her small ration of sunlight. Throughout, her gift is never to try and be bigger than her subjects. She knows, in particular, not to overdress depression. In Haruspex, she writes: “my mind has been wrong/ for a long long time”.

4 stars out of 5
4 Jan 2019

"an addictive, thrilling, sickening experience"

Vertigo & Ghost explodes into furious life with a series of poems and fragments about the Greek god Zeus and what some sources have referred to as his “erotic escapades”... overall this extraordinary cacophony of voices...is an addictive, thrilling, sickening experience... Benson has said that “when a poem first comes it’s this sort of excitement in the language and heart”, and her gift is not to lose that excitement in the finished work. Vertigo & Ghost is a book of two halves: one merely very good, the other quite out of this world.