Bioluminescent Baby | Fiona Benson


The poems in Fiona Benson’s Bioluminescent Baby reveal the short yet urgent lives of insects. Originally commissioned by University of Exeter’s ‘Project Urgency’ as a commentary on the looming biodiversity disaster, and reprinted in her collection Ephemeron in a section entitled Insect Love Songs.

In this haunting poem from Bioluminescent Baby about the glow worm Benson lures us into the life of the insect, not by anthropomorphising it but by siting their behaviour besides ours; in petrol stations, the city’s neon lights, where “the dark is drowned. ” Hinting at the precarity of reproduction as glow-worms and fireflies are uniquely susceptible to light pollution. Suggesting a parallel to how we once “wandered in the lanes,” seeking brief and perhaps illicit encounters.

“Benson is interested in what insects tell us about life itself – and instinct. The opening poem, Love Poem, Lampyridae Lampyris noctiluca, is about a firefly that uses bioluminescence to attract its mate. It is a poem of drive and precision.” Kate Kellaway, The Observer. Fiona Benson has published two previous collections, both shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize: Bright Travellers (Cape, 2014) Vertigo and Ghost (Cape, 2019)