The intimacy of Hennessy's Love-In-Idleness

Karen Biscopink

With such delight I have read, and re-read, Christopher Hennessy’s first collection of poetry, Love-In-Idleness.  The intimacy Hennessy calls upon, as he invites us to witness his intricate evolution, is generous and unflagging.  The book opens with a solitary poem, “Christopher Looks,” that defines and redefines Christopher (author, son, lover, concept) via a collage of Google search results.  Brutally honest and frequently grotesque, this piece sets in motion a book that reads like a revolving theatrical set.  With each turn, the reader encounters the poet through a new lens; the disjunction between standpoints is frequently vast and surprising. 


Some days Christopher looks like an ordinary young man;

others, like a man dying to get out alive, gone

into his dead man’s suit at the first sight of blood. 

(pg. 9)


I read Love-In-Idleness with a keen awareness of mythology, or the ways in which one comes to understand both past and trajectory. Hennessy utilizes a surprising variety of formal constructions, each functioning with the poems’ content to create a multidimensionality that is both true to reality, and somehow larger than life.   He moves deftly between short lyric, academic prose, and decorous aubade. Where one poem cites Toto’s “Rosanna,” another recalls the words of Elizabeth Bishop.  While one hand conducts a quiet orchestration of troubled Midwestern families, the other paints a “Still Life with Jars.”  In “Nocturne,” Hennessy writes,


But I was cataloguing another life: alien

beings, superheroes, secret agents,

the boys in school I wanted

to be but couldn’t even talk to.

(pg. 18)


So, too, is Love-In-Idleness an attempt to catalogue many men: the multiplicity of selves contained within a singular poet.  Taking on the persona of Jacob (as he wrestles with the angel,) or a compatriot of Neitzche and Pasolini, or Christ, Hennessy builds a complex comprehension of time that brings his story into relief.  An ever-present eroticism gains volume as we are rocketed from one mythic scenario to the next, lending the book a momentum that I find electric.


It’s all too much

for Nietzche and I.

We embrace in a long kiss

that seems to answer

every question we’ve ever had.


Pasolini applauds.

(pg 60)


Having dog-eared and underlined this beautiful book, having carried it with me for two weeks, I have developed quite an affinity for Hennessy’s work.  Perhaps, too, I should mention that Love-In-Idleness got me writing again.  The six weeks that followed the completion of my thesis were a terrifying poetic dry spell, whose end was well-hidden.  An hour in Hennessy’s imagistic garden, however, incited the linguistic tingle in my fingers that I had so missed.   And so, I offer to the poet both hearty congratulations and  sincere gratitude. 


The cicada sleeps

underground for 17 years

to avoid the mantis and wasp.

But when it emerges, it sings.


There is no shame in that life.

                                                (pg. 35) 

By Christopher Hennessy
Brooklyn Arts Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-1936767021



Beyond and Back: Writing That Risks
Robert O'Connell

Making Americans: Children’s Literature from 1930 to 1960
Charlie Kennedy

Sunday Best: People on Sunday by Geoffrey G. O'Brien
John Gibbs

I've Always Wanted to Use Malarky in a Review: Trances of the Blast by Mary Ruefle
Cassie Duggan

The Streets of Buffalo, à la Carte: Thea Swanson’s The Curious Solitude of Anise
Charles Haddox

A Witty and Delightfully Engaging Collection: Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby
Charlie Kennedy

Spanish Author's Debut in English: End of Love by Marcos Giralt Torrente
Erin Berman

A Riveting Read: Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco
Erin Berman

We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter by Rachael Hanel
J. Haley Campbell

This Feeling of Empathy: Participants by Andrew Keating
Joe Ransom

Portrait of a Poet: Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine
John Gibbs

Rediscovering Levine: A Reissue of Sweet Will
John Gibbs

Meandering Toward Meaning in Michelle Herman's Stories We Tell Ourselves
Morgan Vogel Chinnock

Skin I'm In: Ariana Nadia Nash's Instructions for Preparing Your Skin
Cassie Duggan

SplitLevel Texts: A Cruel Nirvana and The Treatment of Monuments
Patrick James Dunagan

A Race to Understand a Troubled Place: Michael Lavigne's The Wanting
Alex Rieser

Lenore Zion's Wicked Smart Novel Stupid Children
J. Haley Campbell

Into the Tangled Dark: Jay Ponteri's Wedlocked
Morgan Vogel Chinnock

Stalking Wolf Haas's The Bone Man
Charlie Kennedy

A Painter's Poet: Karen Rigby's Chinoiserie
John Gibbs

Bridging the Gaps: Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra
Erin Berman

Manu Joseph's The Illicit Happiness of Other People, A Novel
Charlie Kennedy

Courttia Newland Explores London’s Social Rifts in The Gospel According to Cane
Andrew Blackman

A Sharp Debut: Jamie Sharpe's Animal Husbandry Today
John Gibbs

Susan Wheeler's Meme: A Contagious Book of Poems
Cassie Duggan

Joshua Cohen's Verbal Gymnastics: Four New Messages
Juli C. Lasselle


The Grittiness and Challenge of Zadie Smith's NW
Charlie Kennedy

Minnesotan Dragons in Mindy Mejia’s The Dragon Keeper
Inge Lamboo

Pianos and Poems: Oni Buchanan's Must a Violence
John Gibbs

Verbal Tumbleweeds: Davy Rothbart's My Heart is an Idiot
Catherine Wargo Roberts

As Labyrinthine as the Streets of Moscow: Caroline Clark's Saying Yes in Russian
paul kavanagh

A Bell Ringing in a Place Thought Dead: Safe as Houses
Michelle Boise

Purple Passages and Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch
Patrick James Dunagan

On Lecturing Poetically: Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey
John Gibbs

Travels in Puerto Rico
Charlie Kennedy

Breaking New Ground: Between Heaven and Here
Erin Berman

Invest in Stock: Norman Stock's Pickled Dreams Naked
John Gibbs

As if it Fell from the Sun: Celebrating Poetry from EtherDome
Chelsea DeRose

They, Too, Sing America: Buckley & Ott's Poets' Guide to America
John Gibbs

Renegade Documents:
Tlemcen or Places of Writing & Opera Omnia
Patrick James Dunagan

Something Out There: Catherine Chandler’s This Sweet Order
Jonathon Penny

Jennifer Miller's Daring The Year of the Gadfly
Eric D. Goodman

Coastal Poetry: Dear Oxygen and California Redemption Value
Patrick James Dunagan

The Cosmology of Transience: Kevin Opstedal's California Redemption Value
Alex Rieser

Collective Memory in Evelyn Posamentier's Poland at the Door
Trena Machado

We Have to Stop Being Fearful: Paul Kavanagh’s Iceberg
Charles Haddox

A Life's Work: Sheer Indefinite by Skip Fox
Patrick James Dunagan

Syntax as Music in Arisa White’s Hurrah’s Nest
Karen Biscopink

Alone Together: David Landrum's The Impossibility of Epithalamia
Robbi Nester

Nature, Terror and Renewal in Zilka Joseph’s What Dread
Michelle Regalado Deatrick

Meditating on Aline Soules' Meditation on Woman
Carol Smallwood

A Little Night Music: Kenneth Frost’s Night Flight
Christina Cook

The Joy of Carol Smallwood's Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity and Other Realms
Aline Soules