Milk Fever


Kaddy Benyon’s poems are physical, earthy, powered by the salt of guilt, the cadences of liturgical language, the familiar stations of the day, close family relationships. Such poetry draws on the rich ground of childhood to question the big subjects: family, love, sin. It stirs primitive fears and desires that are the spark in the steel.

Gillian Clarke
National Poet of Wales
(Zoology, Carcanet)

Here are poems which combine dark Lawrentian fire with sparkling contemporary diction to great effect: poignant, far-reaching, reflective, elemental. A remarkable debut.

Penelope Shuttle
(Will You Walk a Little Faster?, Bloodaxe)

Kaddy Benyon’s memorable and rewarding book, Milk Fever, offers lyrics of intense physicality and sensuality, where the world we inhabit and the world of our bodies collides and often merges in metaphors of powerful resonance and charm.

Chris Hamilton-Emery
(Director of Salt Publishing)

I love the earthy, physical quality of the poems, which as they turn at their ends, renders shock and very physical astonishment in the act of reading. I keep trying to turn over their words, as it were, like stones. I love them and look forward to reading more.

Sean Borodale
(Human Work, Jonathan Cape)

Milk Fever

You, my Inuit mother – those
low-slung cheeks, watery eyes hidden
inside a fur-lined hood, breasts you
couldn’t unpack in time for your milk

to be supped unfrozen. You strapped
me to a sled, wrapped tight in pelts,
a matted fleece, some buckskin
stretched and dried that summer

you grew me inside you. A reek
of hunt and meat, a thick blood
pulsing the air with each numb thud
of your snow boots kicking up ice,

glittering my hair. North you trekked,
the sled ropes tied to your waist
as you grunted, sweat and chapped.
All I wanted was for you to stop,

hold me still a moment, not leave
me tethered to a lumber pole
as you hacked pale blue blocks, stacked
them to build a snow-dome shelter.

You lit a fire in its pit, heated meltwater
in a wide, silver bowl and held it
steaming wildly to my lips. Head dipped,
you left me in a darkness of sniffing

bear and fox, like a dream, a fear
I wake from: drifts of white linen, you
asleep nose-to-nose with me, almost
invisible, mere breath on my face.

 Kaddy Benyon 2010

(i.m. Louise Bourgeois)

Your veined hands slap marble
Buttocks, cup stone scrotums smooth
As eggs. You fondle a jacaranda pod

Trace its cleft as you speak of the dead
Husband, son, faithless father.
The bent spiders of your fingers work skeins

That span a near-century of rage.
You catch the watery eye of the camera
And say: It is difficult to be a woman

And be likeable. Beneath sapped breasts
You sigh, as though this whole grown world
Is but a memory in red. A wound left open.

A wound left open, Maman.

 Kaddy Benyon 2010

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