Governor General’s Literary Awards

Holy Wild by Gwen Benaway

Holy Wild

By Gwen Benaway

Book*hug; distributed by UTP Distribution


In her third collection of poetry, Holy Wild, Gwen Benaway explores the complexities of being an Indigenous trans woman in expansive lyric poems. She holds up the Indigenous trans body as a site of struggle, liberation and beauty. A confessional poet, Benaway narrates her sexual and romantic intimacies with partners as well as her work to navigate the daily burden of transphobia and violence. She examines the intersections of Indigenous and trans experience through autobiographical poems and continues to speak to the legacy of abuse, violence and colonial erasure that defines Canada. Her sparse lines, interwoven with English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), illustrate the wonder and power of Indigenous trans womanhood in motion. Holy Wild is not an easy book, as Benaway refuses to give any simple answers, but it is a profoundly vibrant and beautiful work filled with a transcendent grace.

“These confessional yet sometimes difficult poems about the Indigenous trans body are lyrical, rhythmic and fierce. It was an extraordinary experience reading this burning, honest manifesto. In her poem ‘A Love Letter for Trans Girls,’ Benaway says, ‘welcome to the first day of forever… you are enough.’”

Peer assessment committee: Lesley Belleau, Méira Cook, Allan Cooper

Gwen Benaway
Gwen Benaway
Photo: Jon Elliott

Biography : Gwen Benaway

Gwen Benaway is a trans girl of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. She is a poet, an essayist, and a Ph.D. student at the Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto. Holy Wild was also a finalist for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry, the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry, and the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. It was also longlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Her next book of poetry, day/break, is forthcoming from Book*hug in Spring 2020. Benaway lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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