An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Smith/Doorstop Books
The Poetry Business
Bank Street Arts
32-40 Bank Street
S1 2DS
ISBN 1 902382 79 X

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This page last updated: 28th June 2008.

It can be difficult to make the transition from writing for one audience to writing for another. IT MUST HAVE BEEN A SUNDAY is Catherine Benson's first collection for adults and while she writes well, a certain discomfort is discerned in her voice, which does not allow her reader to forget her background of writing for children.

Benson's most mature voice comes across in LYNN, subtitled a poem in five parts. In this poignant and evocative series, she describes a childhood shared with her younger sister, regretting the inevitable drifting apart with age and interests and remembering the sadness of her sister's death whilst only a teenager. Each poem describes a different stage of their childhood with Benson's memory prompted by discoveries of sentimental objects. The fourth poem of this series, THE COLLECTION, is an expertly crafted and sensitive piece:

	They gave me your collection.
	I kept them shoe-boxed for years
	then gave them to your niece,
	my first child, born that year of your last gallop
	over an icy Dartford Heath.
	Now your grandniece lifts them out
	sets them on the floor to gallop, trot,
	and roll over: and over and over you
	in my mind, your tanned skin, sun-bleached hair,
	sand in my eyes.
The subtle change of subject in and roll over: and over and over you/ in my mind, is powerful and sand in my eyes is a poignant image. Despite this one quality poem, however, Benson would seem to need more time to develop a mature voice. An awkward immaturity currently dominates the rest of her verse. THE SCYTHE reads like a senior school pupil's English exercise:
	They give me room in this dark shed, a corner of my own.
	Spiders avoid me, mice do not leap me.
	My blade teases the flowerpots and the broom.
	In his hands I am a wicked smile in the grass.
	I leer at the innocent daisy, the bold dandelion.
	I taste the green salt of a grass sea.
	My rhythm is his rhythm.
	In my hands he becomes Father Time.
The simplistic language, hackneyed metaphors, lack of technique, and overall banality of the piece ensure one can almost hear the exercise being given write a description in ten lines or less personifying an inanimate object. This is not the kind of poem I would expect in a collection for adults.

This is a beautiful presented collection of predominantly very average poems. Catherine Benson should take this collection as a starting point upon which to gauge future work as LYNN, demonstrates a promise that should not be extinguished. It is the seed in her garden of creativity that if cultivated with hard work will eventually produce a bed of inspired poetry.

reviewer: Fionna Doney Simmonds.