Judi Benson’s collection of poetry is a heartrending contemplation of the effects of death on those who are left behind. Her poems deal with grief, shock, anger, bewilderment and learning to cope without the person who has died. They deal with the transience and impermanence of life. They show that all our plans are subject to one event which we cannot control and cannot predict.
Clearly, the poems will have a particular resonance for anyone living in Glasgow at the moment as we all try to come to terms with what happened at the Clutha Vaults. They remind us of what the families have to go through before they adapt to the irrevocable change in their lives. They remind us of what we have all been through when we suffer bereavement. They remind us of our humanity.
“Yesterday it was his boots,
shaped to the bunion that sometimes hobbled him,
socks worn away at the heel, neatly rolled in a drawer
(Things that trip me up)
Benson uses language to say that it is in the small things that we experience loss. Things that you have done together now have to be done alone. When you expect an answer, they are not there to give it. The person that you used to talking to is no longer there. She describes scenes where this kind of thing happens. She leaves you feeling bereft.
The words that Benson uses to convey these feelings are apt, and the way in which she crafts her sentences to achieve this effect is meticulous She conveys her meaning through the sheer ordinariness of what she is describing. Benson invokes memory, showing how we use it to cope with our lives.
It is, however, through the flow of her words that Benson achieves her desired effects. Sometimes she does this by the way that the words are set out on the page. Sometimes by the way that the words sound when you read them. Sometimes she uses Scots to achieve her effect, and sometimes Standard English. Whatever she does, Benson has a consummate skill which carries the reader along with her as she describes the emotions that form the basis of grief.
This is a book that may bring some comfort to people who are trying to cope and who believe that what they are experiencing is unique. Which of course it is, but not in the sense that others have not experienced similar emotions. This book was not written for an event like the Clutha Vaults, but it is apposite, so apposite, to read it at a time like this.
Judi Benson’s ‘Hole in the Wall’ is published by Rockingham Press