FINALIST FOR THE 2023 DOROTHY LIVESAY POETRY PRIZE
Ways of Seeing meets Mary Ruefle in these visual-art-inflected poems
Though they started from Sheryda Warrener’s impulse to see herself more clearly, the poems in Test Piece ended up becoming more expansive meditations on seeing and vision. They engage with the process and practice of art-making, and specifically with abstract minimalist works like those by Eva Hesse, Anne Truitt, Ruth Asawa, and Agnes Martin.
Not-seeing/not-knowing is a motif, as is weave, grid, pattern, rhythm of interiors, domestic life. These poems are informed by collage, by the act of bringing images and lines together. With their echoes and reverberations (hand, mirror, body, clear, form, face), a greater complexity is revealed.
"In conversation with visual art, mirrors, and the traces of self we assemble through encounter, Sheryda Warrener’s Test Piece holds an expansive place to dwell with the phenomenological. Interacting with event and object, reflection and parataxis, the writing asks us to consider contingent spaces and the matter of matter and meaning making. The poems adhere as arrangement, as a consideration of relationality. 'What does she whimper in the dog’s ear? / How earthly we behave, believing we’re alone.'" – Hoa Nguyen, author of A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure
"Sheryda Warrener's newest poetry collection unspools as a complex weave of repeated motifs, ritualistic gestures, and deeply embodied observations. I’m especially struck by the influence of twentieth-century women artists within the collection: meditations on Eva Hesse, Agnes Martin, and Sherrie Levine’s works structure much of Test Piece. Palimpsests of photographed interiors, where living and writing collide lyrically and randomly, combine with floating textual cut-ups of variegating transparency. This concretizes, perhaps, how the poems bloom forth from experimental assemblage: 'her body holds/the long blue sentence of it…'" – Marina Roy, artist and author of Queuejumping
About the author
Sheryda Warrener is the author of the poetry collections Hard Feelings (Snare, 2010) and Floating is Everything (Nightwood, 2015). Her work can be found in Event, The Fiddlehead, Grain, Hazlitt, and The Believer, among other literary journals. She is a recipient of The Puritan’s Thomas Morton Memorial Prize for poetry, and recent poems have been selected for Best Canadian Poetry, The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry, and the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize longlist. Sheryda lives in Vancouver BC with her son and partner, and teaches poetry and interdisciplinary forms in the School of Creative Writing at UBC.
- Short-listed, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize
"Test Piece is a rare and necessary poetry book at time when too many poetry books mistake attitude for ideas, opportunism for politics." – Michael Turner, The British Columbia Review
"Warrener adjusts her voice and vision in all of her spoken pictures. She mirrors and multiplies the distances and frames between subjects and objects." – Michael Greenstein, The Miramichi Reader
"Like the 1969 Eva Hesse piece that inspired both the collection title and the titular poem, 'Test Piece for ‘Contingent,'' Warrener’s poetry is about testing the boundaries of perception. " – Margaryta Golovchenko, Room Magazine