Finalist for the Thom Gunn Award for Best Gay Book of Poetry.
Shifting intuitively between youthful belligerence, the individualization of collective myths, and portraits of erotic maturity and angst, Christopher Hennessy’s debut collection of poetry, Love-In-Idleness, commits itself to lyrical explorations underpinned by a sharp and honest introspection. These poems forget themselves, undulate, embrace the actual, dissolve and regroup in their efforts to detail moments of sustained interruption and desire. Here you will find a study of the vivisection of a Midwestern family, a soliloquy from the lover of a Han Dynasty emperor, the re-imagined death of Saint Sebastian, a steamy appropriation of Satie’s humorous score notes, an admirer’s courting of Carl Linnaeus, and the impending finality of a deathbed vigil. Together they announce the arrival of a gifted new voice in American poetry.
by Christopher Hennessy
Pub Date: October 1, 2011
Print ISBN: 9781936767021
Ebook ISBN: 9781936767083
Cover Art by David Drummond
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“If I were to reduce this book to a single letter, it would be O. Opulence, obsession, orgasm and opera all start with an open throat, a gape, a release of pent-up desire. So, too, does Christopher Hennessy’s Love-In-Idleness emanate from the opening of the throat to the shudder and release of the last and final word. Oh, I thought, reading these urgent, physical, dangerously beautiful poems, with ‘the terror ripping open my mouth at the corners’. Yes, and Oh, yes and O…”
Christopher Hennessy’s poems yearn for a sense of certainty, feel their way for a foothold that, ultimately, may not be there. From childhood poems of family and farm (as unsettling, in their vivid realism, as Roethke’s greenhouse poems) to persona poems of deep erotic longing, Hennessy maintains an artful and risky determination, in each poem, ‘to understand the need its song speaks.
Christopher Hennessy gets the rhythm right, the timbre right, and the heart-sense right. Every detail is in place, and the whole ensemble sings. There’s hard labor behind these poems—in Oscar Wilde’s sense, and in Emily Dickinson’s. (Did Emily talk about hard labor? Indirectly, yes.) Wise about words and about the world, Hennessy’s poems cut no corners, though they are full of the melancholy wisdom that hides in coverts, closets, hope-chests, crevices, and other concealed places. I praise Hennessy’s talent, his ardor-packed process, and the shapeliness of the results.
Love-in-Idleness is made up of muscular poems in which nouns and adjectives, verbs and adverbs truly pull their weight. Hennessy is a wordsmith if ever there was one. Line endings, too, often surprise and delight (Aunt Bert shuffles around the sun/porch in a pink and yellow apron). These are lyric narratives that engage and move us. [This] collection is layered, multi-dimensional, and impressive for its technical virtuosity and passion.
A PDF sample of some of Christopher Hennessy’s poetry from Love-In-Idleness.