Known to Canadian culture as the “Sweet Songstress of Saskatchewan,” Sarah was the fictional creation of Paul Hiebert, professor of chemistry at the University of Manitoba. Though fictitious, she became one of the best-known poets in Saskatchewan after her first appearance in Hiebert’s “biography” Sarah Binks, published in 1947. It won the Leacock Medal for Humour, and remains in print as a much-quoted satirical classic of Canadian literature.
Professor Hiebert claimed that Sarah was a simple country girl from Willows, Saskatchewan, who showed a precocious genius for poetic insight in, for example, “The Hired Man on a Saturday Night,” or “Hi Sooky Ho Sooky.” The latter, inspired by her neighbour Steve Gryczlkaeiouc’s courtship of her best friend Mathilda Schwantzhacker, initiated the long “Grizzlykick Symphony” of ultra-romantic poems. Hiebert became known for reading the poems and discussing Sarah’s life on CBC Radio, so that to many fans she came to be remembered as a living poet.
Hiebert published a sequel in 1967, Willows Revisited, in which a group of Sarah’s poetic disciples, known as the Saskatchewan School of Seven, congregated to celebrate her memory and carry on the great Binksian tradition.