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.
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”.
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.