Public poems are like prayers: they have to be heard, to be accountable. War and peace are themes among the 53 cleverly-crafted poems in this book – villanelles, sonnets, folk ballads, comic turns, the odd Indian-style ghazal.
The variety reflects the personal and the public aspects of Gerard Benson. Like the late John Betjeman, he was a poet who thought and felt himself part of a community with a tradition and history worth celebrating.
AprilA plump crow in a blossoming cherry tree
stumbles and hops from twigs to branch, bobbing
the boughs. Clumsy. Lout in a lingerie
department. Insolent border guard, grubbing
through intimate belongings, thick thumbs
and gloved fingers shifting papers and clothing
and toilet preparations. So April comes
with a cold wind and ragged clouds scooting
over a pale sky, with washing blown out straight,
shirtsleeves reaching for the horizon. The crow
lumps his way through, hustling his weight
about, scuffing the bright petalled snow –
a dozen brush-strokes of shiny black paint –
opens his dark bill, gives voice, a harsh complaint.
“Whether he’s observing the seasons, watching mothers and children at Bradford’s bus station, planting garlic, making a winter stew, enjoying concerts at St George’s Hall or commemorating the Bradford City Fire Disaster, the whole man is there: good humoured, far-feeling, conciliatory.”
– Jim Greenhalf