Sandra Ridley

Silvija by Sandra Ridley

Griffin Poetry Prize 2017
Canadian Shortlist

Book: Silvija

Poet: Sandra Ridley

Publisher: BookThug

Click here to read an excerpt.

Sandra Ridley


Multiple-award-winning poet, instructor and editor, Sandra Ridley is the author of three books of poetry: Fallout (winner of a 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award and the Alfred G. Bailey Prize); Post-Apothecary (finalist for the ReLit and Archibald Lampman awards); and The Counting House (finalist for the Archibald Lampman Award and chosen as one of the top five poetry books of 2013 in Quill & Quire‘s Readers’ Poll). In 2015, Ridley was a finalist for the KM Hunter Artist Award for Literature. She lives in Ottawa.

Judges’ Citation

“The poems in Sandra Ridley’s book are potent and beguiling. Words are given the space they need to root and branch. This pace of them engages with the unarticulated, the hidden, the unbearable as readers encounter five elegies that allude to and invoke trauma, shame, and a profound sense of loss. Given the themes at work in this collection, silence is an essential part of the reading. Ridley conducts and curates that space as liminal. Here’s where we understand the scope of the work and concede to bearing witness. Here’s where we understand that we will be haunted. And from that silence, the words that emerge have been given the time they need to properly cure and to season in the poem’s atmosphere. They reach, as words do, singular and fluent. Ridley’s language is persuasive and ripe. ‘[N]arrow your eyes to the now,’ the poem requests. Here is ‘a shame unleashed by plain talk’. Beneath these elegies, there is a current, a reprise praising the healer. This current is another root system, an ongoing poem, essential to the collection.”


In a sequence of five feverish elegies, Sandra Ridley’s Silvija combines narrative lyric and experimental verse styles to manifest dark themes related to love and loss: the traumas of psychological suffering (isolation and confinement), physical abuse (by parent and partner), terminal illness (brain tumour and heart attack), revelation, resolution, and healing. Pulsing with the award-winning writer’s signature blend of fervour and sangfroid, the serial poems in Silvija accrue into a book-length testament to a grief both personal and human, leaving readers with the redemptive grace that comes from poetry’s ability to wrestle chaos into meaning.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.


We fail to name this right / without the words
For lapsing / lilies / wilted / in the beginning
Wind caught nothing / your leaf unscrawled.

Whatever we’ve come to collect / we can’t find
The undaunted / spectral / let’s put it this way
Transverse / the waves lengthen ungraspable
Umbral / fear departing as soon as it’s spoken
We turned toward your haunting / a sallowed
Rustle / rustle.

From Silvija by Sandra Ridley
Copyright © 2016 by Sandra Ridley

More about Sandra Ridley

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Photo credit: John W. Macdonald