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Winner of the Anita Claire Scharf Award
Robert Morgan describes John Bensko’s collection, Visitations, as “a book of portraits and voices, many voices, all of them vivid and memorable. Rivers speak, weeds speak, and figures from American history tell us their stories . . . Both the atrocities and glories of our world come to life in these poems of witness, lament, celebration, and the often painful mystery of love.”
In Visitations, Bensko pushes readers to enlarge their vision through imaginative leaps; his poems are visitations to multiple times and places, indwelling bodies and circumstances. He allows us to inhabit both sides of a war, to move from the Hudson River Valley to Mississippi, or to draw our souls through sheep, oxen, and shark; we are unmoored from time and place to explore what it means to be fully human.
“I sit back after reading one of these and have to catch my breath, a little shaken by encountering a poet whose instinct guides him straight to the heart of the matter . . . I rejoice that poetry this good is still being written,” writes Richard Tillinghast.
John Bensko won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for his first book, Green Soldiers (Yale UP 1981). He has published three more volumes of poetry, The Waterman's Children (U of Massachusetts Press 1994), The Iron City (U of Illinois Press 2000), Visitations (U Tampa Press 2014) (winner of the Anita Claire Scharf Award), and a collection of short stories, Sea Dogs (Graywolf Press 2004).
His work has been anthologized in The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry; A New Geography of Poets; The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets; and The Yale Younger Poets Anthology.
His awards include a Fulbright Professorship in American Literature at the Universidad de Alicante, Spain; the McLeod-Grobe Poetry Prize from Poetry Northwest; an Editors Choice Award from The Sonora Review for the short story "The Ocean"; and a Lifetime Achievement Literature Award from the Germantown (TN) Arts Alliance.
A Professor of English at the University of Memphis, he teaches in the Creative Writing program. Through the U of M Study Abroad Office, he has launched a summer creative writing program in creative writing at the Universidad de Alicante, Spain.