Paul Bailey

Lines of Descent

Vertigo & Ghost

By

Jonathan Cape 94pp £10 order from our bookshop

The Built Moment

By

Faber & Faber 53pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Selected Poems

By

Picador 242pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter