In Peter Bennet’s poetry nothing is what it seems to be. Modern spaces are haunted by the past and the unreal. We cannot tell the encroacher from the encroached. Discontinuities in time and space and playful short-circuitings produce exhilarating shivers. Bennet is an astute observer of people, places, and things, however, and we find ourselves surprisingly at home on this border between plausible narrative and the wilder territories of the imagination.
This comprehensive selection reflects Bennet’s full range for the first time, and begins with poems from the early 1980s, when he arrived in Jon Silkin’s Stand at the no longer young age of forty. It draws on seven collections published since then and includes his major sequences: The Long Pack, Jigger Nods, Folly Wood, Bobby Bendick’s Ride, Landscape with Psyche and Ladderedge and Cotislea. New work introduced here centres on another major and powerfully imagined sequence, a colloquy which bridges three centuries to evoke the voice of the Quaker James Nayler, who was abominably punished for ‘horrid blasphemy’. The book concludes with a substantial group of recent poems.
‘Peter Bennet considers the moments of interaction between past and present, fairytale and fact, using folklore’s staples to cast light on contemporary concerns. His watchful, thicketed landscapes, the stateliness of his language, all fit themselves perfectly to winter. This is fireside poetry.’ – Sarah Crown, The Guardian
‘Bennet often tips his hat to his literary heroes, wielding the instructive tone of Norman MacCaig, the direct address of W.S. Graham, and Robert Browning’s sophisticated handling of the dramatic monologue and acoustic texturing, but it is to the imagining of a poetic place that Bennet gives his all.’ – Soumyaroop Majumdar, READ
‘Bennet really does know, very precisely, how to contrive the entry of the powers of place and history into his poems without depriving them of idiosyncrasy, surprise, or their darker natures.’ – Sean O’Brien, The Sunday Times
‘Often in Bennet’s poetry there is a sort of magical realism at work, reinforced by linguistic exuberance and rhythmic energy: this is poetry that – unfashionably – sings.’ – Roger Caldwell, Times Literary Supplement
‘Peter Bennet inhabits the past convincingly – wholly present in the worlds he evokes. This is a rare and enviable thing. There is an unforced elegance and control in his work, and the formal register he adopts fits his rich subject-matter perfectly.’ – Helen Mort, Poetry London
‘In “Pastoral” Bennet may see himself as “an upstart in the poetry of fields”, but in the craft of poetry he is a master.’ – William Bedford, The High Window