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This review is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.

A PRISM OF POETS Faber New Poets 1-8: Fiona Benson, Toby Martinez de las Rivas, Heather Phillipson, Jack Underwood, Joe Dunthorne, Annie Katchinska, Sam Riviere, Tom Warner Each pamphlet: £5.00

Scarlet, turquoise, lime. Lemon, apricot, strawberry. Faber's New Poets pamphlets form a delectable fan. Are the colours of the poems as distinctive as their covers?

Fiona Benson's poems are in love with the world's fragility: 'we are mortal, porous/ a beautiful trick of the light'. Mortality haunts them. A bird, with its 'hollow bones', becomes 'a small ghost'. Yet they are also alive with colour, with fish of 'turquoise and gold'. Frank about sex 'that skinned the ridge of my back', they recount, toughly, a miscarriage 'soaking the mattress in blood'. As in 'Reflex', which compares a shocked woman to a slaughtered horse, a stronger rhythm might occasionally be called upon to preserve a poem's impulsion. But this pamphlet contains some exquisite endings, grief, caught in half-rhyme, 'your heart,/ ... its hurt, its hurt', a lover in summer, 'your nimbus of insects lit by the sun'. Let me steal one of her favourite words. Fiona Benson's poems are radiant.

Toby Martinez de las Rivas is wholly at ease with rhyme, and a long singing line. A gate hums with 'disconnected, artless, dumb life struggling into song'. His work has a delirious intensity, as when a child faints at a plane's roar, 'And the yellow grass ... and I fell into darkness'. His poems include a long prayer for the weak, 'my tongue a water-snail with soft horns poking', and a tenderly direct poem for a woman with Alzheimer's, 'Don't fret, / Mary Bullen ... Don't ...


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