Finalist for the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize for Excellence
Finalist for the 2017 Archibald Lampman Award
49th Shelf Most Anticipated Fall 2016 Poetry Preview Selection
Grief is personal and unpredictable; no two people experience it the same way, and yet, each person that comes out the other side is transformed by their experience of loss and redemption.
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.
Griffin Poetry Prize, 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.”
Griffin Poetry Prize Reading •
“Silvija’s recent Griffin nomination is a welcome confirmation of Ridley’s place in the first rank of Canadian poetry.” —JM Francheteau for Arc Poetry Magazine
“Sandra Ridley’s fourth collection of poetry, Silvija, adds to her already impressive body of writing. The book, which is organized into nine sections, situates Ridley as one of the preeminent Canadian poets of her generation. Her writing is comparable to that of her Canadian foremothers: Erin Mouré and Nicole Brossard.” —Robert Anderson, for The Puritan
“Reading Sandra Ridley’s Silvija is to be tossed into the beautiful, impossible web of language, so unafraid of darkness, so willing to bear witness, so brave in wrestling meaning from silence. Poems of a non-linear unfolding attempt to hold love and suffering.” —Mary MacDonald for Pique Magazine
“Beautifully designed, Silvija is a structural whole, a beautiful web of language, doing elegy as a constrained & compelling dance of words.” —Douglas Barbour for Electric Ruckus
36 pp., thread bound, 5.75"x 6.5"
cover of St. Armand Canal paper
flyleaf of handmade Nepalese paper
Published by Baseline Press in 2018.
The Counting House
Quill and Quire's Top Five Poetry Books By Readers' Poll
Finalist for the Archibald Lampman Award
Akin to a bookkeeper’s accounting of what’s given and taken in a fraught, uncertain exchange, The Counting House records the pageantry and pedantry of courtly affection gone awry. Symbols and origins of traditional rhymes involving kings and queens serve as inventory, alongside elements of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. In forensic sequences of inquisition, scrutiny, and reckoning, Ridley reveals the maiden as muse as modern darling—unhoused and exacting—in “all of her violet forms.”
Archibald Lampman Award, Judges' Citation (excerpts)
“This is a remarkably adventurous and fascinating book. The Counting House explores in different registers a failed or failing relationship and the states of mind of someone caught, wretched and in desperate need of escape. The verbal units may be fragmentary, but they assemble with great power in the reader."
“Constellating fragments from philosophy, feminism, and nursery rhymes, the book takes an unusual poetic accounting as it unfolds through wild linguistic leaps and startling juxtaposition. This is an ambitious and highly rewarding book.”
“Sandra Ridley has revealed our closest contradictions in poems where harm is exhausted in both pleasure and pain. These poems find a blackbird baked into a pie, and our own drooling expectation of dessert, the edible object, is replaced by the excitement of the bird that escapes it, somehow alive. We revel in the spectre of the creature’s death and resurrection. How close we are to pain and destruction here, but Ridley surprises us with life that stubbornly and lovingly continues. In language that soothes and bites word by word, The Counting House is a book that lives fiercely in the complex in-between of love and punishment, pleasure and pain, coo and cry.” —Jenny Sampirisi, author of Croak
“Sandra Ridley’s The Counting House is a powerhouse collection, establishing its tone within very first words…Ridley’s style is what brings the ambitious collection its success. Her choice to play with space, as if scoring the poems herself, creates a rich duality between pauses and punctured fragments.” –ML Wolters for Cape Cod Poetry Review
“Ridley manages to pinpoint minutae of a complex thought, extended and stretched apart to reveal and revel in an incredibly dense gymnastic language.” – rob mclennan’s blog
“But it is a text that rewards repeat and aloud readings amply. The diversity of language is marvelous, and Ridley’s deeper humanistic concerns — about devalued subjects crashing forward into a condition of self-declaration — emerge through these poetic sequences intensely, and bravely.” – Margaret Christakos for Canadian Poetries
Finalist for the Archibald Lampman Award
Shortlisted for the ReLit Award for Poetry
Alcuin Society Award for Excellence, Third
Winner of the International Festival of Authors' Battle of the Bards
Archibald Lampman Award Judges' Citation
“Sandra Ridley’s collection of poems Post-Apothecary explores the physical embodiments and poetic possibilities of illness. The tone ranges from fever-induced fragments to folk-remedy archaica, and
Post-Apothecary walks the eerie histories of the sanatorium and the asylum. Calling Post-Apothecary lush and adventurous, the judges underscored Ridley’s influence on the current generation of young writers in Canada. Ridley offers us neither diagnosis nor cure, but sits with us through “An onslaught of nights.””
"Rarely and miraculously I read something that stays with me as Post-Apothecary has done, a book which caught in my throat with its lilt and its language, its utterly mesmerizing tone. Inspired by a visit to a building that was once a tuberculosis sanatorium, the poems in Post-Apothecary are the shiverings of the afflicted, the captive and the still-living; a tender and unflinching understanding of loss of control. If you haven’t read aloud recently, this is the book you need to gift yourself with. There is a sharp awareness of breath here that makes reading aloud a pleasure; pauses by turns soft and gasping give way to revelations both fevered and lucid. Journeys through terrifying emotions — illness, isolation, hurt and threat of more hurt — examine incomprehensible states. Ridley is a master of control, of gentle voice expressing horror and fever pitch reaching joy. There is intensity to this tumult; a visceral, scary and ultimately happy intensity of being grounded in present and post." — Carmel Purkis for the 49th Shelf
“Ridley applies the “innovative” poetics of disjuncture — wrenched syntax, agrammatical statement and a teasing refusal of lyrical utterance…the result is postmodern, feminist Gothic.” — George Elliot Clark for The Halifax Chronicle Herald
“Sandra Ridley’s poetry collection Post-Apothecary is a gothic marvel of delicacy and toughness. It’s almost painfully beautiful as it anatomizes pain…I crave this exquisite degree of finesse.” — Kateri Lanthier for the 49th Shelf
“An unbearably beautiful study of a medical world that hardly could seem to have helped anyone.” — Lori Cayer for The Winnipeg Free Press
“Ridley's Post-Apothecary is a complex and complicated book, deceptively small and gracefully beautiful, impossible to properly describe, and even more difficult to put down.” -- rob mclennnan for Dusie
“Pedlar Press has a reputation for publishing some of the most beautiful and engaging books in the country. That reputation holds true with Sandra Ridley's Post-Apothecary, an elegant follow-up to her award-winning Fallout.” —Eric Schmaltz for Broken Pencil
Finalist for The City of Ottawa Book Award
Longlisted for the ReLit Award
Winner of the Saskatchewan Book Award for Publishing
Winner of the Alfred G. Bailey Prize
Fallout embraces the darkness of the 20th century in poems that inhabit both the fear and wonder of that time. On the surface Fallout appears to be about the legacy of the nuclear age yet Ridley writes with a subversive humour that counters the fierceness of her subject. In her world madness intrudes upon the mundane as a Nevada casino shakes during a "test", a white train rumbles through the night transporting nuclear weapons and a couple takes up residence in a vacant nuclear weapons silo. Ridley's poems veer from the terrifying to the tender, the comic and the apocalyptic, the ironic to the philosophical, and the cosmic to the domestic-- often within the same poem. This is an energetic and entertaining new voice in Canadian poetry both insightful and playful by turns. At the heart of the book is an elegiac tone that points to a more hopeful future. The book ends with an award winning sequence of ghazals written about the death of a young sister that leaves the reader breathless.
Alfred G. Bailey Prize, Judge's Citation
"An omnibus tour of those who experienced the atomic test-site blasts held in Nevada in the 1950’s and 60’s. Whether the author’s subjects are a Saskatchewan farming family caught amidst mounting evidence of radioactive fallout making its way north to them, or soldiers paid to be in trenches 2,000 yards from the explosions, or still odder, curiosity seekers who show up to watch and collect souvenirs, the poems never lose sight of what it is to be human, to deal reflexively with events at the edge of a slowly dawning catastrophe. There’s a wealth of quirky but pertinent detail delivered with a bluff matter-of-factness that does much to evoke the eeriness, not only of the test sites, but of the nearby chamber-of-commerce mind-set that regarded atomic testing as plain good business. A subversive humour is intermittently at work as well, countering the fierceness of the subject matter while showcasing such minutiae as government-designed highway on-ramps to accommodate tanks. The twelve excellent poems in “Lift: Ghazals For C”, “No Water”, “Trinity Test Site”, “Atomic Vet”, “Imaginary Friends” and “Miss Atomic 1957” are just a few of the fine poems that make this startling collection tick.”
"The poems in Fallout are phosphorescent and lilting. They drag across the stretch of sky and earth delineated by atomic testing in the 1950s–60s. They shimmer radioactive dust and the space race and alphanumeric codes while shuddering intimacy and pulse and uneasiness. Fallout pulls itself into landscape format through the sheer horizontality of its poems.
The last section, “Lift: Ghazals for C.”(formerly a Jackpine chapbook), is a heart-wrenchingly grief rid. It follows the drift of a child’s illness and death specked up against the quiet sadness of our daily details. It’s an elegy that radiates the day-to-day ache of loss through a tender negotiation with the absent beloved. An absence pooled in the marrow.
The work as a whole feels like prairie. It feels like Vegas. Like breath and science projects gone awry and deep bunkers. A mishmash of nuclear age debris interspersed with moments of achy beauty: barbed wire and thickets. It’s a beautiful book down to the simplest particle." — Christine McNair for the 49th Shelf
"All is not what it seems in this distinctive book....The back cover copy reveals that the collection “appears to be about the legacy of the nuclear age,” and many of the poems do deal with the Fallout the title suggests: illnesses spawned by “Radioactive particles blowing past the Dakotas” and the “blind rabbits, broken Joshua trees” at the Trinity Test Site, for example, but these poems are interspersed between pieces about childhood, rural life, and a broken family, and the book closes with a long poem in ghazal form – “Lift: Ghazals for C.,” – about the poet’s sister who died at age two. The latter text especially showcases Ridley’s strong voice; it was previously published as a Jackpine Press chapbook and earned a bpNichol Chapbook Award (Ridley was co-winner), plus it garnered the poet a finalist position for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Impressive." — Shelley Leedahl for SaskBookReviews
Poetry chapbook. Finalist (excerpt from Post-Apothecary) for 2009 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry
"If you get the thing done right as Ridley does here and as you might find, for example in much of the work of Ann Carson, what you get is a body that gives off a glow. An energy cast, appropriately, into a straightjacketing form that nonetheless beats at it, again appropriately, like blood through a vein. Beats against it and withdraws, and then repeats. Done repeatedly there's a structure of reverberation that affects every subsequent line exponentially. One of the things this allows the poem to do is paradoxically expand its meaning as it progresses, even as the forms apparent on each page begin to contract, moving more and more closely to stillness, and to individual heavy lines, to some that may fragment under their own weight, or need to be couched in even more stabilizing and stricter stanza forms. A language that might touch on the experiences of laudanum, ether, and hemorrhaging presented here. The Beckett trick, the minimalist paradox. You can call the whole thing Dionysius and Apollo instead if you like, I don't think it will mind. It's a paradox that also depends significantly on the propulsive, heady, and above all sensuous quality..." Jamie Bradley for Bywords
Lift: Ghazals for C.
Co-winner of the bpNichol Chapbook Award
Lift traces the transformative cycle of birth and death within a farm family unable to speak of loss. This series of twelve ghazals circles back on and then into itself, as the family comes to terms with what was taken and what remains: with a child’s sickness, the need for hope. Interspersed are hand-printed block prints capturing the isolated feeling of life on a prairie farm. Intentionally stark, they evoke a sense of loneliness, and serve to focus on the house as a stand-alone microcosm within which the world is falling apart.
Materials: The cover is a hand-printed front-to-back linocut print on Arches Aquarelle paper, protected by Mylar sheath. The book is hand-stitched with bees-waxed archival linen thread, and contains three original hand-printed block prints, with text printed on Canson Special Effects paper.
"...the poems themselves are stark as the prairie, a clapboard house, chokecherries, fireweed. nature is weaved thru the memories of a child that didn’t live but is part of a family’s history, even though her photographs have been taken out of the album. the poems put the photos back in the album, so to speak.
what I particularly like about these ghazals is their compactness or minimalism; the use ghazal couplets is a restrained form that works effectively to represent the understated tone, grief for a deceased child, Carolyn, to whom these ghazals are dedicated. we are told in the endnote that Carolyn died in 1958, two weeks before her second birthday." Amanda Earl