Let’s Keep in Touch, Connie BensleyThe cover is a bright sky blue. The title is centred in the top third in small, fairly insignficant black lower case. The name of the author is centred, in the same font but even smaller, half an inch or so below. There is no other decoration or ornament on the jacket.

The Garlic Press, 2018  £6.00

Noticing better

There are poetry pamphlets that lift your heart and this is one of them. I’m not sure how Connie Bensley does what she does, but her poems make me notice things more carefully – more tenderly, if that doesn’t sound too strange.

It’s partly because she herself is a wonderful observer. In her opening poem, ‘Getting It Right’, she is in a bus queue watching a film crew making a commercial. Actually, the whole queue is watching:

Suddenly one of them shouts Action
and a girl in jeans comes out of a shop
and walks the few yards towards the cameras.
But something is not perfect, and she is sent back

again and again. We think about perfectability
and when the bus comes we climb on with more care
than usual. Are we doing it with conviction?
Are we getting it right?

I read this with a smile while sitting on a bus myself, and immediately I was noticing my own place in my own journey scenario, and noticing it far more precisely than before. ‘Getting It Right’ is not just a little snippet of quirky observation. Its effect is more far-reaching, and hard to explain.

Whatever she does, Connie Bensley accomplishes it without fuss, though the effect on the reader is intense. In ‘Serial Killer’ she has been looking at old photographs. I felt as though she had just stepped into my life. Who has not had this experience?

And who was the woman in the lace blouse
sitting on our sofa, with the basilisk stare?
I don’t remember ever seeing her before.

Then in ‘Heron’, the poet walks past a heron in a small park. In the plainest of language, the poet describes seeing a beautiful sculpture and then realising it is a live bird. The fact that she is walking to the bus stop ‘after a hospital visit’ is dropped in as though insignificant. Somehow the poem conveys a sense of private miracle, as well as the feeling that we are all on the edge of one, at any minute of any day.

This is a deliciously life-enhancing writer. Everyone should have, at the very least, one of her pamphlets for bus journeys. 

Helena Nelson