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4.40  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In her second collection of poetry, Passage, Gwen Benaway examines what it means to experience violence and speaks to the burden of survival. Traveling to Northern Ontario and across the Great Lakes, Passage is a poetic voyage through divorce, family violence, legacy of colonization, and the affirmation of a new sexuality and gender. Previously published as a man, Passage ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published December 15th 2016 by Kegedonce Press
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Average rating 4.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  110 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"I wish it was Christmas / I need twinkle lights / and excuses to drink."

Passage was my introduction to Gwen Benaway and I loved this book. The poems are honest, intense, bold, and dark. I am grateful that Gwen decided to share this story. There's a lot of pain in this book, and she discusses it so beautifully. I highly recommend picking up this poetry collection.
Khashayar Mohammadi
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Heart-breaking. It drew me in and shook me to my very foundations.
One of the most moving parts of Benaway’s essay on cultural appropriation and erasure in Canadian literature is one of the final sentences: “Good art is not an act of violence but an extension of love.” This is without a doubt what she has accomplished in Passage, an infinitely generous, vulnerable, and beautiful book that shows just what wonderful work readers have access to when Indigenous writers are given a platform to tell their own stories. Check out my full review here. ...more
when I ask
to be seen

and everyone can’t,
I don’t let them,

look away, my face
shiny like a bruise

before it disappears,
when I come back

and open the doors
to light, the winter air;

that brief illumination
of my damaged selves,

this is the moment
I dream of now,

which isn’t vengeance
nor redemption, nor rescue

just returning
to what I lost,

the sovereignty of truth,
of saying it happened

the universe admitting
it let me down and here

I am, not whole
but yes, still here

ready and willing
to be seen.

(from “Rescue”)

holy s
i need to read this collection at least one thousand and one more times to let it sink in, really. there are a thousand and one journeys and loves and knowings and undoings. i appreciated the simplicity of the structure benaway chose for this collection: a part for each great lake, short lines, consistent lengths of stanza in visual rhythm without constraint or force. leanne betasamosake simpson's blurb said it best, really: "with equal parts warm light and bone raw, this stunning collection bur ...more
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, queer
This is an Own Voices Trans Two-Spirit Indigenous Canadian book of poetry, and it is FUCKING AMAZING. Organized into sections dedicated to the Great Lakes, Benaway explores grief, abuse, colonization, desire, sexuality, and gender. Her writing is simultaneously sparse and vivid, luxurious and simple, and it moves and flows like the water it seems to be inspired by.

My personal favorites were 'Trout', 'Self-Love B', 'Trans', 'River', and especially 'Lake Erie', because I grew up on that lake and i
Melissa Graham
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Poetry is not a shortcut.
Not an unmotivated checkmark
The word are not for me
The pain and the water reminds me
Call and answer
Lindsay Nixon
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Riveting, gut wrenching and sexy -- Benaway's collection is hands down the most important Indigneous poetry collection of our generation, and a formidable follow-up to Ceremonies for the Dead. A must read, and not in that cliched reviewer way. I mean, everyone needs to read this. It should be mandatory content on every Indigenous, feminist and queer reading list and/or syllabus. ...more
Anishinaabe + Metis + trans + abuse + small town fundamentalist parents + surviving the city knowing people want to kill you + love + this wonderful water imagery as the poems are collected into sections names after the great lakes. I should read more poetry.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, own
An intense, raw, beautiful book of poetry by a Two-Spirited Trans poet of Anishinaabe and Metis descent. She chronicles her life in all its joy and pain, and does so in in credibly moving ways. Benaway is a voice well worth reading.
I feel weird about reviewing books of poetry on goodreads, because really, I don't know shit about poetry. But Passage by Gwen Benaway is a breathtaking collection, and you should read it. ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
A poignant, powerful and beautiful book of poetry on the north, lakes, waters, and being trans and indigenous. Loved this.
Eaton Hamilton
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Call me a fan. Mapping by water, Gwen Benaway, a two-spirited trans writer of Anishinaabe and Métis descent, brings us a brave and powerful second poetry title broken into ancestral waterways: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Superior. Benaway is an uncluttered writer, but her work is powerful in its simplicity, whether talking about her dad’s abuse, being a trans child, race, sex, love, heartbreak or the legacy of colonization.
Dana Neily
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
There are some real gems in here but mostly I found the style a little too sparse and didn't quite get enough out of most of the poems. Still worth reading if you have interest in gender diversity and the experiences of trauma. ...more
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-lit, poetry
I misplaced this book of poetry around Christmas time, found it again just last week, and am very grateful to have found it and finished it. I think Gwen’s work is strongest when it’s plain, direct, and less evocative of ‘poet’s poetry,’ often the endings to poems that feel summed in the final lines, or rushed to get out of (e.g.: “i know only desire / as a trout knows the shore, / in death, defeat, / and a fisher’s lure,” the rest of the poem preceding it so much more visceral, queer, and not u ...more
Anita Dolman
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gwen Benaway carves her poems in Passage to reflect the waters of the Great Lakes, and a body and spirit in transition. These poems are prayerful and fluid, telling the story of loneliness and belonging.

Benaway brilliantly layers existential questions with answers, and at times more questions, drawn from the earth, the water and a soul yearning for respect, love and understanding. What you will come away with is a sense of the inherent need to connect, to be one's self, and to be at peace.

The j
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love the separation of sections into the Great Lakes, associating a transition to physically becoming a woman with the power and flow of water; it's so subtly and artfully done that I didn't quite realize what was happening until the third or fourth section. Benaway pulls us through, interspersing moments of quiet and sometimes violent beauty of the outdoors, the north, the lakes, the wild with moments of beauty and violence and pain and joy of being a transgender Anishinaabe and Metis woman. ...more
With each section named after a different Great Lake, it was impossible for me not to relate (I grew up a bike ride away from Erie, and did family holiday stuff at the other lakes, I have always lived in SW Ontario where I am basically between the lakes).

Benaway is such a talented poet, and I love her work, and this collection is especially fabulous. Shaping each set of poems around different personal memories just worked so well.

I believe she has another some upcoming work, and I can't wait to
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am in complete awe of this collection of poetry. So many times my jaw dropped as I read brilliant piece after brilliant piece. I was constantly stuck between reading this all in one setting and needing time to let its words sink in properly. A true masterpiece. I am extremely grateful for these words and their painful truths and beauty. Easily my favourite book of poetry. Thank you Gwen for putting words to the page in a way that truly spoke to all the pieces of my being.
Rai Beattie
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this so much! Benaway's poetry is gorgeous even when it is really painful. I connected so strongly with the background of the Great Lakes that runs through it. Each section has such a strong sense of place. There are a lot of difficult (though not graphic) things in here (physical and sexual abuse, transphobia, anti-Indigenous racism) but Benaway infuses the pain with a strong and inspiring will to survive. ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is raw and wounded in a way that rings with healing--both the difficulty and possibility of it. If you like poetry, you need to read this book. Preferably with a friend, definitely with a box of tissues. The water imagery was beautiful, and the descriptions of life in small towns and big cities were brutally real. Not an easy book, but totally worth the read.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the collection for anyone who has ever lived through and been shaped by trauma. It's a tough read, but one that will leave you feeling more whole by the end of it. Reading this was a heart-wrenching, visceral experience. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat!
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Painful reading this after the allegations about Gwen. A wonder what my rating would have been if I had not know about the controversy?

Regardless I did not like the two-line poem format - found it difficult to read. I did like the poem that wondered if immortals transitioned.
Ellen Chang-Richardson
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A must-read. Simultaneously masculine and feminine in tone. Simultaneously soft and floating, then scraping and raw to the bone. To be read as an entire piece.
Tanya Neumeyer
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Gwen for your work, your life, your passage through this time in your life with these words.
Ciara (Lost at Midnight)
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
This might be my favourite book we had to read for this class? It was excellent.
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love the way her words flow, the feelings of fear, loss, desire, pain are so real and true as they flow over the page. I love the connection to land and place.
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would like to thank this author for sharing some of her life with me. Every human experience that I learn about expands my compassion.
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I section that focused on the abuse resonated most with me ... obviously... sigh.
rated it really liked it
Nov 19, 2017
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Gwen Benaway is a bisexual feminist Gemini trans girl of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. She has published three collections of poetry, Ceremonies for the Dead and Passage, and Holy Wild. Her fourth collection of poetry, Aperture, is forthcoming from Book*hug in Spring 2020. Her writing has been published in many national publications, including CBC Arts, Maclean’s Magazine, and the Globe and Mail. ...more

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