New book: Coney Island Pilgrims, by John Hennessy ’87 (The Ashland Poetry Press)
The author: Hennessy teaches courses in creative writing and literature at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is the poetry editor for The Common, a magazine based at Amherst College’s Frost Library. His first poetry collection was Bridge and Tunnel. Hennessy won the Transatlantic Review Award in fiction from the Henfield Foundation and was a resident fellow in poetry at the Amy Clampitt House.
The collection: The poems in Hennessy’s new volume have appeared in Best American Poetry 2013, Poetry magazine, The Believer, and The Yale Review, among other journals. On the book’s jacket cover, Jonathan Ames ’87 called the poems “sumptuous yet lean, wild yet measured. The unbearable beat of life rushing by is suffused beneath his lines, but he is trying to get it all down, to record as much as he can, until the next thing happens.”
Opening lines from the title poem:
“Paul used to say that I should seek God
in the loneliest places. While the subway
ground along firing sparks, I lobbed
my school-tie behind me, St. Peter’s stone.
He said to watch the driver sway,
glide toe to heel, a holy piston
pumping the rail. I drank and crooned
into beer cans, inflated brown bags
in both hands, popped them like balloons.”
Review: “Reading John Hennessy’s Coney Island Pilgrims is entering a labyrinth. Actual places introduced by the poems are destabilized to question the depth of human experience,” wrote a reviewer for Mead magazine. “The book challenges our knowledge of the world and begs us to rethink.”
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