Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Shoestring Press 2004 - £5

 

Peter Bennet’s poems draw you into a world populated by dream geese, scarecrows and hippogriffs—the world of the cockatrice and pobble, where you can hear worms and see spirits, and where things change shape at night. Often this spells menace. In ‘The Task’, “something whimpers and the floor is slippy.” In ‘The Deputation’, there is

some lapse of dignity, as I remember,

then all the darkness I could drink. 

This, then, is a serious business. The poems are serious too: initially I found them obscure and unyielding. Even now I have no idea what is going on in some of them. But others deliver fascinating glimpses into a strange and mystical place. It’s not always ominous and scary, but it is a place where important things happen. Like fairytales, for example, sunrise that brings out men disguised as animals, and marvels, like the man up the valley in ‘The Border’ 

who grows new clothes upon himself in summer

with something itchy in the lining

that makes him shrug them off each winter. 

   Bennet writes in a way that makes you sit up and concentrate. He is scrupulous about the precise meaning of words, and I found myself reading in the same precise and scrupulous way. But at the same time his tone is conversational and his language direct. This adds up to poetry that stands its ground.

   This pamphlet presents Bennet’s poems beautifully: good paper, quality cover, and a fine pen drawing of an owl. ‘Noctua’ is Latin for owl, with all the connotations of wisdom and night time that this brings. So beware. These poems are strong stuff, to be taken in small doses and not by the fainthearted. As the poet himself says in ‘Breathe Carefully’: 

Breathe carefully, a little at a time,

unhook the phone, and bolt your door.

               

Hilary Menos