Friday, 30 January 2009

Review: The Jealousies by Benjamin Stainton

Ben Stainton's new collection The Jealousies published by BeWrite Books is a collection of restrained and evocative poems that cover everything from childhood reminiscence to nostalgia for a past that never was. There are echoes of Eliot, Pound, and other famous poets here, and their heritage is well continued.
We fought in a vacuum,
like Hamlet & Ophelia,
juveniles made godlike.

You were a totem stick,
several blurred heads
skewered like lamb-meat

& the salacious night
closed over your mouths.
We smoked liver, & sang.

Them were the abusive days,
grinding our love to dust.
I am a longing, for your rust

to mend me, mend me, mend me.
Parts are touched by a tinge of threatening evil, the blackness and moral void behind everydayness -
Uncertainty is the only guarantee.
I shoot hopeful arrows into space.
Am I the frozen January fields
that Gainsborough painted, in love?
Or the crushed ice in a sugared glass?
Our feral search will last forever.
We scrape the leathery sea for clues
& urge the booming clocks to stop, or run
& never read the news. All calamities.

Mr Slaughter, buried in the yard
of the red house. Mrs Slaughter pruning.
Perhaps I am the flourishing lilacs?
(Sea of Stones)
The best parts are the passages that display fresh and vigorous use of words to illumine moments of life. These poems are of life and drawn from life, and as the book progresses the voice becomes more enriched and deeper, more fluent. It is a book one can read to watch this development in the three sections that precede Journal, the fourth and best part and culmination of the book.

The Jealousies is a very good specimen of a sort of poetry worth preserving, one with an explicit sense of being situated within a tradition. It is poetry that depicts life as she is lived, rather than exploring questions of metaphysics or political engagement; in fact, it is part of the historical tradition of great poetry. Stainton's development will be of interest. This book holds promise of a new voice in the canon of UK writers.
David McLean, author of Cadaver's Dance

Benjamin Stainton seems to have achieved the distinction of being both modern and traditional simultaneously in The Jealousies. There are moments of poetic purity, several examples of refined, wonderful verse. Each piece is infused with drama and subtle twists of language -
The tall windows remain tight-lipped
in my plum-coloured room.
(Sea of Stones)
At times romantic, visceral, elegiac, violent; there is an instinctive poet at work in these pages.
Brian Howard

It ebbs & flows with a very elegant word choice, imbued with color. It delivers a punch, a "frayed sanctity."
J. Michael Wahlgren

In Benjamin Stainton's The Jealousies, birth, womanising, hangovers, love, states of mind and much more are all re-created in flickering images. Stainton is a master of metaphors and uses them effectively to unpeel honesty without banality. The poems manage to be simultaneously real and abstract; both strange and accessible. This is a first collection full of originality, embedded in emotional energy.
Carillon Magazine

Ben Stainton's incisive poems take us back to what we think are familiar places … There seem to be no barriers. Life, death, location, the inner workings of the body, blood and skin are all seamlessly accessed, sometimes all at once … These tasty, gourmet poems satisfy our less familiar appetites.
Greg Cox

All our preconceptions are upturned and buffeted... there seem to be no barriers.
The Cannon's Mouth

A poet unafraid of truth, able to portray lust without apology
Marysia Wojtaszek, The Open University

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