Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson
PBS Spring Wildcard 2019
Violence hangs over this book like an electric storm. Beginning with a poem about the teenage dawning of sexuality, Vertigo & Ghost pitches quickly into a long sequence of graphic, stunning pieces about Zeus as a serial rapist, for whom woman are prey and sex is weaponised. These are frank, brilliant, devastating poems of vulnerability and rage, and as Zeus is confronted with aggressions both personal and historical, his house comes crumbling down. A disturbing contemporary world is exposed, in which violent acts against women continue to be perpetrated on a daily – hourly – basis.
The book shifts, in its second half, to an intimate and lyrical document of depression and family life. 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.
Vertigo & Ghost is an important, necessary book, hugely impressive in its range and risk, and dramatic in its currency: a collection that speaks out with clarity, grace and bravery against the abuse of power.