Ariana Benson, a first-year MFA student in poetry, has won the 2022 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her manuscript Black Pastoral. Benson will receive $1,000, and her manuscript will be published next fall by the University of Georgia Press.
A 2019 Marshall Scholar, Benson is an accomplished poet who has already won numerous accolades for her work, including the Furious Flower Poetry Prize, the Porter House Review Poetry Prize, and the Graybeal-Gowen Prize. Benson’s poetry explores the relationship between Blackness and the natural world, with a particular interest in the idea of beauty as worth.
“If poetry is a form of prayer, then Black Pastoral is the church, pew, pastor, baptismal site, hymn, and a symphonic archive of our historical silences,” writes poet and 2022 Cave Canem judge Willie Perdomo. “This collection of poems is a transcendent appraisal of the blood that was extracted from Black bodies. These poems (read pastorals, read lyrics) have a way of entering your bloodstream, re-birthing your soul, and altering your molecules until a tree is no longer a tree, but a retrospective exhibit of strange fruit bearing witness.”
Established in 1999, the Cave Canem Poetry Prize promotes the work of new African American poets by launching the publishing career of a new Black poet each year.
“Winning this award is an absolute dream come true, especially as a Black poet whose work has been directly and deeply inspired by that of countless Cave Canem poets,” said Benson. “It is the honor of a lifetime to have Black Pastoral in this incredible poetic lineage.”