ARIANA BENSON WINS 2022 CAVE CANEM POETRY PRIZE
BROOKLYN, New York., Sept. 7, 2022 — Willie Perdomo has selected Ariana Benson as the winner of the 2022 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her manuscript Black Pastoral. Benson will receive $1,000 and publication by University of Georgia Press in Fall 2023.
Of the winning manuscript, Perdomo writes: “If poetry is a form of prayer, then Black Pastoral is the church, pew, pastor, baptismal site, hymn, and a symphonic archive of our historical silences. This collection of poems is a transcendent appraisal of the blood that was extracted from Black bodies. In the tradition of Richard Mayhew, Ariana Benson challenges and forces us to de-romanticize the American landscape. At once tranquil and reflective, the poems in this collection—structurally innovative, formalistically demanding, lyrically fluid—provoke the reader toward a sublime reckoning. The milieus in Benson’s poems: a Middle Passage broom jump, a stacking of “things” at Elmina’s Door of No Return, the breaths of Eric Garner and George Floyd meeting in a Rothko painting, are rendered beautifully through luscious aubades, ekphrastic poems that excavate ruins, anti-elegies, an exacting still-life, and alternative approaches to established forms. You will never feel alone in Benson’s landscape of organic belly songs. These poems (read pastorals, read lyrics) have a way of entering your bloodstream, re-birthing your soul, and altering your molecules until a tree is no longer a tree, but a retrospective exhibit of strange fruit bearing witness. Black Pastoral reads like a canvas where one must question goodness in the face of evil, use a swim lesson to transport through America’s violent chronology, and bask in the light of love’s ultimate mercy and grace.”
Ariana Benson was born in Norfolk, Virginia. A 2022 recipient of the Furious Flower Poetry Prize and the Porter House Review Poetry Prize, Benson also won the 2021 Graybeal Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets, and an Academy of American Poets Prize from her alma mater, Spelman College. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in POETRY, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, World Literature Today, and elsewhere. She serves as a Helen Degen Cohen Summer Reading Fellow with Rhino Poetry and a Nonfiction Editor of Auburn Avenue Literary Journal. Benson has received fellowships and support from Poets & Writers, Breadloaf Environmental Writers’ Conference, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, The Seventh Wave, Indiana University Writers’ Conference, Oak Spring Garden Foundation, and others. Through her writing, she strives to fashion vignettes of Blackness that speak to its infinite depth and richness.
This year’s runner-up is Olatunde Osinaike for his manuscript, Tender Headed. Originally from the West Side of Chicago, Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet and software developer. His work was a finalist for the 2021 Alice James Award and the 2021 CAAPP Book Prize. He is the winner of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, a Frontier Industry Prize, and an honorable mention for the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Award in Poetry. He lives in Atlanta.
Established in 1999 with Rita Dove’s selection of Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work, the Cave Canem Poetry Prize is a first-book award dedicated to launching the publishing career of a Black poet. The 2022 Cave Canem Poetry Prize will open for submissions in January 2023.
Founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape, Cave Canem Foundation is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.
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Since its founding in 1938, the primary mission of the University of Georgia Press has been to support and enhance the University’s place as a major research institution by publishing outstanding works of scholarship and literature by scholars and writers throughout the world.
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This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Seth Sprague Educational & Charitable Foundation. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.