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Sheri Benning: A Word List

Sherri Benning’s Field Requiem: this book sent me to the dictionary (well, the internet search) again and again. While there’s nothing unusual about my having to look up words, what I found interesting here was that most of the words I didn’t know could be grouped into just a few different categories.

The taxonomies of the unknown words reflect my specific limitations as a reader, but may also tell you something about the poetry and what it imparts. If you find my word list here intriguing, go read the book. I mean, go read the book regardless. It’s worthwhile.


  1. It’s sometimes hard to decide if you do or don’t know a word, isn’t it? While most of the words on the list are words I truly did not know, such as vernix and ferric, there are a few here that I could quasi-ballpark without looking up a definition, such as homily and adipose.

  2. Should I be embarrassed that I didn’t remember what fetor meant? Anyway, I didn’t.

  3. If you want proper definitions, look them up yourself. I’ve used lazy sources like Google and Wikipedia and cited them improperly.

Word list:


Hawkweed: a genus of flowering plant

Catkins: a group of small flowers hanging like short pieces of string from the branches of particular trees in the spring

Brome: genus of grass

Fescue: A genus of flowering grasses

Caraganas: Siberian peashrub, introduced to Canada

Bluestem: a family of grasses

Horsemint: a species of mint

Allium: genus of flowering plants

Blackthorn: a species of flowering plant, native to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Arctic rose: a flowering plant

Cocklebur: a genus of flowering plant

Clubroot: Clubroot is a serious soil-borne disease of cruciferous crops (canola and cabbage family) worldwide and was first identified in Europe in the thirteenth century.

Flixweed: plant

Kochia: weed of the week for June 4, 2020 on Western Producer online.


Plainsong: a type of simple group singing without instruments, used in the Christian Church

Pyx: A pyx or pix is a small round container used in the Catholic, Old Catholic and Anglican Churches to carry the consecrated host to the sick or those who are otherwise unable to come to a church in order to receive Holy Communion.

Burse: a flat, square, fabric-covered case in which a folded corporal is carried to and from an altar in church.

Reliquary: a container or shrine in which sacred relics are kept.

Homily: a religious discourse that is intended primarily for spiritual edification rather than doctrinal instruction.


Ferric: relating to or containing iron (as in ferric alloys)

Geosmin: Geosmin has a distinct earthy or musty odor, which most people can easily smell. Geosmin is also responsible for the earthy taste of beetroots and is a contributor to the strong scent that occurs in the air when rain falls after a spell of dry weather or when soil is disturbed.

Calcerous: Calcareous is an adjective meaning "mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate", in other words, containing lime or being chalky.

Anhydrous: containing no water

Neonics or neonicotinoids: a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine.

Malathion: an insecticide

Medicine and Birth:

Vernix: Vernix caseosa, also known as vernix or birthing custard, is the waxy white substance found coating the skin of newborn human babies.

Sebum: Oily, waxy substance produced by the glands to protect the skin

Ataxia: Ataxia describes poor muscle control that causes clumsy voluntary movements. It may cause difficulty with walking and balance, hand coordination, speech and swallowing, and eye movements.

Cytokines: a broad and loose category of small proteins. Some of them are important immunomodulating agents.

Vellus: Vellus hair (peach fuzz) is fine, short hair that grows all over your body, including your face, stomach, arms and legs. Vellus hair helps regulate your body temperature and protects your skin.

Styptic: (of a substance) capable of causing bleeding to stop when it is applied to a wound.

Adipose: Adipose tissue, body fat, or simply fat is a loose connective tissue composed mostly of adipocytes.

Parasomniac: A parasomnia is a sleep disorder that involves unusual and undesirable physical events or experiences that disrupt your sleep.

Farm Implements:

Bushrake, Seedhawk, Rome plow.


Makhnovists: historical Ukrainian political movement

Aspic: a transparent jelly made from animal bones that is used in cold savoury foods

Fetor: A strong, foul smell.

Tilth: there are several interlocking ways to use the word, all related to agricultural soil preparation and quality

Douppioni: an irregular silk thread reeled from two or more entangled cocoons and producing a coarse yarn generally used in fabrics such as shantung or pongee.

Cinereous: a colour, meaning ashy grey in appearance, either consisting of or resembling ashes, or a grey colour tinged with coppery brown.

Baize: a coarse, typically green woollen material resembling felt, used for covering billiard and card tables.

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