Deborah Tyler-Bennett is a poet whose reputation is growing in stature with every new collection she produces. For the last fourteen years, ever since winning the MacDiarmid poetry prize for her poem, Kirk Alloway, she has been assiduously carving a niche for herself on the UK poetry scene with poem after poem in her own distinctive voice. There are some poets of whose work you only have to hear two or three lines to know it’s them – and this is certainly true of this collection.
The book is split into four broad sections – the first of which is firmly grounded in the author’s East Midlands roots – memories of Mansfield, and aged Aunties who comb the obituaries of the Sutton-in-Ashfield Chad in search of people they knew. Books of the Village - Diseworth and Kegworth, the next part, is inspired by the lads who never returned from Flanders to these tiny rural Leicestershire communities. Going South, the following section, takes us to the seedy world of Brighton and the South Coast. Finally, in a much more wide-ranging section of poems inspired by radio, films and TV, Deborah Tyler-Bennett expands the themes of ennui and the vacuity of a society based on the uncritical mass consumption of popular culture.
This is also a book which hardens, and darkens, as you progress through each section. It is possibly her darkest book to date for the King’s England Press but in terms of coherence and consistency, it achieves a difficult balancing act – to contain both elegiac wistfulness with nostalgia, contemplation of the inevitable, and justifiable anger about what could be done better – make no mistake, this is also, politically, possibly, her most committed book, drawing parallels between Britain today and the 1930s, and it can, surely, only be a matter of time before this book, and its author, receive the recognition they truly deserve.
"Deborah Tyler-Bennett’s skill lies in creating a portrait in words so that even readers who don’t know the subject can still conjure up an empathetic picture and gain an understanding of who the subject is... Deborah Tyler-Bennett relishes a larger-than-life personality and an opportunity to show off her dexterity with vocabulary – which is here tamed by rhyme but is more usually tamed by keeping her subjects in focus and describing their lives as they themselves might have done. Her use of rhythm and enjambment keep the poem moving forward so it feels like a shiny, glittering ornament; but there is always substance and purpose below the decorative surface.” LONDON GRIP, reviewing Napoleon Solo Biscuits, the author’s previous collection.