Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson Boldly Confronts Gender-Violence

“Vertigo & Ghost” by Fiona Benson is a collection of works that hums the songs of shock and survival. It is deeply rooted in the experiences of Gender violence and rising up from breaking its shackles. This extraordinary collection moves the readers and directly confronts violence against women. The collection shapes up to be one of the darkest and bravest one, unsettling its readers to their core.

Starting with Greek mythology, the book slowly enters into a grimmer arena, giving a gruesome count of the central thought, narrating the experiences of crime against women. Here, very interestingly, Benson takes on mythology and goes on to cast Zeus as a he-man, an ace swimmer and also a serial rapist. The opening poem, however, is written on the concept of dawning of female sexuality and gives absolutely no clue about what’s to come.

The opening poem narrates a gathering of girls on a tennis court, as quoted by The Guardian:

“and sex wasn’t here yet, but it was coming,/and we were running towards it,/its gorgeous euphoric mist;”

The book then shifts from the themes of comparatively sober ones talking of virginal appetite to a more sinister one. The book, here, experiences a fall, as if traveling through a trap door and falls into a poem narrating a crime scene: “bullet-proof glass/and a speaker-phone between us/and still I wasn’t safe”.

The depictions of Zeus, even though are divine, are nonetheless dim as well as frightening. The characterization is such that Zeus communicates in the poem with capital letters representing the overpowering bully, and this power play is what his kicks are and he is not shying off to show it upfront with a horrible jauntiness.

As quoted by the Guardian, Zeus’ words by Benson are:

“ITS VIOLET GRAINS/DIMINISHING TO NOTHING/LITTLE BIRD CUPPED/IN THE HOLLOW OF MY PALM

ITS TINY QUENCH –/PHUT!/UNDER THE HOOD,”

The form that she imbibes for Zeus is no doubt predatory and can get the reader gasping for breath, as the words are relentless and leaves no space for the reader to stop and search. The journey here is kind of a universal drama that Benson creates to bring out the bitter-most truth.

The Guardian quotes “Vertigo & Ghost”, “I came to understand/rape is cultural,/pervasive;/that in this world/the woman is blamed.”

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