Paul Bailey

Lines of Descent

Vertigo & Ghost

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The Built Moment

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Selected Poems

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Fiona Benson’s powerful second collection, Vertigo & Ghost, is divided into two not entirely distinct parts. It opens with ‘Ace of Bass’, in which she recalls the pent-up sexual longings of early adolescence: ‘and sex wasn’t here yet, but it was coming,/and we were running towards it,/its gorgeous euphoric mist’. The poem is a tender and funny prelude to the horrors recounted in a sequence devoted to the priapic antics of the polygamous Greek god Zeus, who appears in any number of guises: as an imprisoned rapist, as a convicted murderer in the electric chair, as an everyday predator and stalker of a distressingly familiar kind, and as his cheerful godlike self. He’s also there in the person of the real-life Stanford freshman Brock Turner, who received a light sentence when found guilty of raping a girl who had passed out after drinking too much (‘The judge delivers/that he is an exemplary member/of the swimming squad’), and, a bit more obviously, as the orange-hued American president in ‘HIS SHINY GOLD TOWER’. It is Zeus’s eternal right to have his pronouncements set down in capital letters.

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