Magazine article World Literature Today

Darkness Sticks to Everything

Magazine article World Literature Today

Darkness Sticks to Everything

Article excerpt

Tom Hennen. Darkness Sticks to Everything. Port Townsend, Washington. Copper Canyon Press. 2013. isbn 9781556594045

Tom Hennen's newest book is a new-andcollected volume, including poems from 1974 to the present, showing that Hennen has been quietly among us all these years with relatively little celebrity. How is that possible with poems as luminous as many of these are? It might have something to do with Hennen's apparent disinterest in the preoccupations and obsessions of his time, the many -isms and causes (just and otherwise) that seem to dominate more "popular" poetry. He seems never to have heard of postmodernism, or even modernism, never to have heard of the social and political upheavals of the last forty years. His poems seem deeply immersed in the immense solitude of the American Midwest, not lonely and trying desperately to escape but, in fact, immersed, focused, witnessing, perceiving, shaping. One could compare this poetry to that of Kooser, Bly, Tu Fu, even James Wright, but one would only be naming poetic kin.

Hennen has his own unique quietude, a kind of American Midwest hybridization of the main sensibilities of Zen Buddhist and Taoist poetry. He seems interested primarily in giving shape to precise feelings, for example: "All through the night / When the woods come close / You can hear them breathing like wet dogs." He may or may not seek the spark between two things, two images, as Zen poetry so often does; instead, he may leave us-having carefully positioned us-transfixed in a precise moment of feeling, the lyrical instant of awakening. …

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