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A collection of poetry from the Eric Gregory Award-winning Fiona Benson. Winner of the 2015 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize Winner of the 2015 Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection Shortlisted for the 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize Shortlisted for the 2014 Forward Prize for Best First Collection

Winner of the 2015 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize
Winner of the 2015 Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection
Shortlisted for the 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize
Shortlisted for the 2014 Forward Prize for Best First Collection

In this remarkable, intensely moving, first collection, Fiona Benson shows her fascination with human experience. The poems move on archaeological fast-forward from submerged Devonian forests and a Paleolithic cave-bear skull to the site of decommissioned submarines at HMNB Devonport, where the sea is ‘still a torpedo-path, / an Armageddon road’. She explores the shared human continuum of bodily longing – from the Prehistoric maker of a wooden fertility fetish, to a modern-day couple wading through summer pollen – and the timeless cycles of conception, birth and child-rearing.

A central sequence of dramatic monologues addressed to Van Gogh allows for a focussed exploration of depression, violence, passion and creativity. In these poems, as in all the poems in this impressive debut, we feel keenly the sense of life lived at the edge of threat – catastrophe, even – but also on the cusp of beauty and happiness. Other poems about the bewildering loss of miscarriage are hard to read and impossible to forget, moving with grace and authority through great grief to arrive at a hard-won destination of selfless, unqualified love.

‘I remember again / the corridor / of the labour ward // and that woman / sitting weeping / with her man // having given birth / to a death – / small grey face, // no breath, / something you cannot help / but love – // habibi, akushla, /I go home alone / but carry you, // courie you, / little slipped thing, / to the ends of the earth.’

Reviews

Solemn scrutiny, intoxicating lyricism and a dark imagination.

Ben Wilkinson, Guardian

Hugely impressive… [Benson] has the modest exactitude of a true poet.

Kate Kellaway, Observer

Fiona Benson’s debut collection may have been the most impressive published by a British poet last year. The 45 poems in “Bright Travellers” capture both her versatility…and her sense of balance. Themes of violence and loss, shown most vividly in her accounts of motherhood, are paired seamlessly with moments of great tenderness.

The Economist

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9780224099493

    May 15, 2014

    Jonathan Cape

    80 pages

    RRP $27.99

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  • EBook

    9781448191406

    May 1, 2014

    Vintage Digital

    80 pages

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    • iBooks NZ
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