Photo: Fiona Benson. Photo credit: Gareth Franklin.
Fiona Benson (b. 1978, Wroughton) says that the terrifying sequence of Zeus poems that form the first half of Vertigo & Ghost emerged from ‘a long buried experience, and then a sudden pouring-in of words, that I can only explain as coming out of the woods’. The sequence makes palpable the sexualised violence latent in Greek mythology, with Zeus as abuser-in-chief, abetted and feared. It is followed by an exploration of the complex and ambivalent terrain of early motherhood.
Benson’s debut collection, Bright Travellers, was shortlisted for the 2015 Forward Prize for Best First Collection and received great critical acclaim. Ben Wilkinson described how she ‘treat[s] the poem as a kind of secular prayer’ and indeed many of the works in Vertigo & Ghost arrive at prayer as their end-point: the last words of ‘Eurofighter Typhoon’, the final poem in the collection, are ‘Mary, Mother of God, have mercy, mercy on us all.’