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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review of "Ceremonies for the Dead"

Giles Benaway-Photo By: Christine Smith ( McFarlane)
Ceremonies for the Dead-image courtesy of Kegedonce Press

Review of Ceremonies for the Dead
By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Poetry never ceases to amaze me.  I began my writing career with pieces of poetry published here and there, but then with time, I discovered the genre of short stories and turned my attention to that. I don’t know if I will ever go back to poetry because in poetry, I find that you either got it or you don’t. The way I see it is that, there is a different type of artistry that goes into poetry. It is in how a writer puts his/her words together and how these words are conveyed in poetry that make a certain piece sing.

“Ceremonies for the Dead,” a debut collection of poetry written by emerging Indigenous writer Giles Benaway is a book that examines the haunting themes of intergenerational trauma, abuse, and inherited grief. The words in each poem of this collection have a way of tugging at you, making you feel the pain and the hurt, but also make you laugh at the bits of humour and satire sprinkled here and there throughout the collection.

There were several poems that really struck a chord with me, but one in particular was “Advice for Abused Children,” where Benaway writes of a pain that I’m familiar with- the one of childhood abuse. Where as a child you are helpless to stop the abuse and perpetrators famously say, “everything was your fault.”

In one stanza in “Advice for Abused Children” you are almost in tears as you read

“if you have any sudden desires to escape
by breaking down and telling school officials,
you should remind yourself that you are liar
who deserves every rough word
and sharp jab.

but then three stanzas later, you feel the resistance of a fighter coming through with the following words

“Whatever you do
never forget to stop fighting
and just let it happen as many times
as it needs to.”

“Ceremonies for the Dead” is a great debut collection. The poetry within is breathtaking both in their depth, courage and beauty. It is 80 pages long and published by Kegedonce Press. You can order it through or at your nearest bookstore. I believe Giles Benaway is a poet to watch out for.

To see more of Giles Benaway’s writings, you can visit his blog at

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