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The Season's Vagrant Light

New and Selected Poems

Sheri Benning

The Season's Vagrant Light
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Categories: 21st Century, Canadian, First Collections, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2015)
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(Pub. Jan 2015)
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  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Shrew sounds of leaves,
    bleeding at a pace the eye can’t hold.
    As a child standing in willow kindle,
    grasses the yellow of grandma’s dying
    arms, watching geese harrow a sky made
    more blue by the radiance of decay,
    asking for a sign…

    from ‘Wolverine Creek’
    This book marks the UK début of Canadian poet Sheri Benning, featuring new poems alongside work previously published in Canada. Benning’s early work draws on her strongly felt connection to her native landscape, rural Saskatchewan. In poems that couple sinew and roots, blood and sap, skin and stone, Benning explores an ecology of affiliation between humans and the natural world. The poems are also alive to the quiet intimacies between father and daughter, mother and child, between siblings and between lovers. Benning’s later work travels further afield – to Russia, New Mexico, Scotland – but always the physical landscape is entwined with memory, the landscapes of the mind.
    Sheri Benning grew up on a farm in central Saskatchewan, Canada. She's the author of The Season's Vagrant Light (Carcanet Press), as well as Thin Moon Psalm (Brick Books) and Earth After Rain (Thistledown Press) published in Canada. Her poems, essays and short stories have appeared in North American, British and ... read more
    Awards won by Sheri Benning Short-listed, 2023 The Saskatchewan Book Award (Poetry Book)
    (Field Requiem)
    Short-listed, 2023 The Saskatchewan Book Award (City of Saskatoon)
    (Field Requiem)
    Short-listed, 2022 The Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry (Field Requiem) Short-listed, 2022 The Pat Lowther Memorial Award (Field Requiem)
    Praise for Sheri Benning
    '...An exceptional book which commingles duty and love, herbs and elbow grease...Benning utilises the lyric's potential for time-travel, for resurrection, throughout the book, shoring up everything she can't bear to lose - or at least to accept is gone.'

    Declan Ryan, Poetry Birmingham

    'The poems themselves, in graceful free verse of acute imagery and sensual detail, create intimacy between reader and subject.'

    Jean Van Loon, Arc Poetry

    'In a voice both deeply embedded and far removed from a Saskatchewan prairie farm, a settler farm; Benning conveys deep respect and immense sadness for the fragility of the land, community, family, and individuals endangered by and lost to production, men, and reproduction, women. Benning's flawless lyric lines, and superb technical and emotional vocabulary strafe a reader's consciousness and challenge notions of progress invoking stark visions of degradation and disrespect. Aptly photographed abandoned homesteads precisely locate their settler coordinates and disperse nostalgia under the gathering cloud of the dark cover.'

    Jurors, Pat Lowther Memorial Award
     'Benning belongs to the next generation of writers-of-European-descent who are attempting to lift the truth of what happened on the Prairies in the late 19th and 20th centuries out from under the slur of "prairie anecdotalism" and into general public consciousness... There is not a trace of sentimentality in these poems; the writing is exquisitely cadenced, and intensely enactive.'

    Jan Zwicky, The Fiddlehead

    'These fierce precisions are underscored with a perfect eye for detail. This is a writer who has noted and weighed everything and understands its loss. Field Requiem is a passionate work.'

    George Szirtes, Poetry Review

    'However urgent the political debate underlying these poems of grief and rage, loss and lyric yearning, Benning's skill is to elaborate these in most cases without overwhelming the poetry to didactic purpose, yet clearly delineating the sense of grief and outrage...'

    Ken Evans, The High Window

    'This is a stunningly beautiful collection [...] searingly wonderful poems of both lament and fury'

    Beth McDonough, DURA Dundee

    'Benning is sensitive to the warp of memory as well as its weft...There's grief here which belies Benning's beautiful syntax, but also the love that makes recuperation her project: it must be possible to remember everything.'

    Imogen Cassels, Times Literary Supplement

    'Like the Catholic requiem mass they often echo, her incantatory poems express both mourning and praise...her work is steeped in evocative sensory details'

    Barb Carey, Toronto Star

    'Sheri Benning's Field Requiem is a startling collection that is both hauntingly lyrical and politically engaged...the poems themselves stand like lines chipped into a headstone. Reading this book I felt I was tracing my hands over the marks made, trying to better understand what has gone before.'

    Emma Simon, The Friday Poem

    'Incantatory, rich with lived detail, Field Requiem's ceremony of naming resists the "terrible forgetting" that's led Saskatchewan to a dangerous present and that threatens a bleaker future. Sheri Benning knows that love of place requires attention to all of it - to its history and to its dead, to sublimity and devastation, "matted pasture grass / where a deer has lain" alongside Intercontinental Packers and the "chemical burnoff after frost". "How strange", she writes, "to find oneself at the end of it all". This is a work of devotion, a lament and a prayer, an urgent, heartbroken, and beautiful book.'

    Karen Solie

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