Thursday, June 6, 2013

A poet of and with rural sensibilities

Tim Hennen's collection of poetry, Darkness Sticks to Everything, is reviewed in the New York Times today by Dana Jennings, who describes the new book, Hennen's sixth, as "an essential survey of his career."  Noting that it is the first of Hennen's book to be distributed nationally, Jennings compares the book to "a fine fishing hole only the locals knew."  Jennings quotes from Jim Harrison's introduction to the volume, which calls Hennen "a genius of the common touch."

Here's an excerpt from his poem, "Summer Night Air."
Night doesn’t fall
It rises
Out of low spots
Tree trunks
And the back
Of the old cow
I’m bringing home to milk.
The titles of and quotes from other poems in the collection (e.g., "Clouds Rise Like Fish," "The Heron with No Business Sense," "Cold in the Trees," "Sunlight after the Pig Yard Flood") suggest Hennen's rural origins, on a family farm in Morris, Minnesota. Born in 1942, Hennen spent his working life with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota.  Those experiences clearly inform his poetic perspective.

Calling Hennen an "American master" and a "word-farmer," Jennings writes of how Hennen sees rural America, what it has been and has become, beyond the nostalgia so often associated with it:
His poems often reflect who Americans still think they are — family farms, amber waves of grain and all that — although he knows, for the most part, they aren’t anymore. 
He knows that his heron with no business sense vanishes because “the swamp has become a supermarket overnight,” that “The hungry man from the woods/Feeds on loose change/Like a parking meter.”

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