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Field Requiem

Sheri Benning

Cover of Field Requiem by Sheri Benning
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Categories: 21st Century, Canadian, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Sep 2021)
£11.99 £10.79
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(Pub. Sep 2021)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Longlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award 2022

    Field Requiem
    bears witness to the violence inherent in the shift to industrialised farming in prairie Canada. Sheri Benning's poems chart the ways in which a way of life collapses, the world of the family farm, even as the speaker suffers, too.

    The first poem in the collection, 'Winter Sleep', is a fever dream: the borders between past and present, between the unconscious and the real, break down. The poem reckons with the devastating social and environmental impacts of the agribusiness industry. The long elegy, 'Let Them Rest', takes its cue from the Dies Irae and the Latin liturgy of the Requiem mass to mourn Saskatchewan's many ruined farmsteads and razed communities. Throughout, the poems trace the still luminous contours of love – for family, for the land – in rendering the horrors of loss. The incantatory voice rises from dream into dark vision.

    The book also includes lyric poems that give voice to the affective consequences of loss brought on by climate change and factory farming and renew a sense of locality in the teeth of corporate farming practices. Benning has worked with her sister Heather Benning, who constructs large-scale, site specific installations which explore and extend these themes.
    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 Long-listed, 2022 The Pat Lowther Memorial Award (Field Requiem)
    '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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