cover image Vertigo & Ghost

Vertigo & Ghost

Fiona Benson. Norton, $26.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-393-54186-1

In her gorgeously visceral second collection, Benson (Bright Travellers) explores misogynist violence through the lens of myth, bringing Zeus into the present day as a serial rapist and abuser. Those familiar with Greek mythology will recall the god’s penchant for questionable sexual behavior, disguising himself as a swan to seduce Leda, for example. In one poem, Zeus appears before a judge and receives a “light sentence” because he is “an exemplary member/ of the swimming squad.” In another, his victim addresses him with vitriol, declaring her intentions for vengeance: “to out you/ Zeus, to drive you through the streets, with/ songs that find a name for you at last,/ you filthy pimp, you animal, you rapist.” The second half of the collection is more overtly personal, as the poet reflects on experiences with childbirth, motherhood, and mental health. There is chaotic beauty throughout, particularly in her physical descriptions of how the human body becomes more animal while giving birth. In “Wildebeest,” she writes: “I submitted to my body’s/ wild stampede/ to deliver you safe/ to the other side// and I was both the flood/ and the furious corral/ from which you were expelled.” This is a fiercely feminist articulation of rage and reckoning. (June)