Sunday Poem (the air smelling like salamanders)

Wet Autumn

Early morning, everything damp all through.
Cars go by. A ripping sound of tires through water.
For two days the air
Has smelled like salamanders.
The little lake on the edge of town hidden in fog,
Its cattails and island gone.
All through the gloom of the dark week
Bright leaves have been dropping
From black trees
Until heaps of color lie piled everywhere
In the falling rain.

“Wet Autumn” by Tom Hennen from Darkness Sticks to Everything. © Copper Canyon Press, 2013.

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“One of the most charming things about Tom Hennen’s poems is his strange ability to bring immense amounts of space, often uninhabited space, into his mind and so into the whole poem.”

—Robert Bly

About the poetry of Hennen it has been said: His Shaker-clear voice is that of the prairie and the country, evoking John Clare from 19th-century England, the flensed-to-the-bone work of the great Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge and the aphoristic lyrics of certain ancient Chinese poets.

In his introduction to Darkness Sticks to Everything, Jim Harrison tellingly likens Hennen’s work to that of former poet laureate Ted Kooser. Hennen writes simply and affectingly of rural life in the heartlands, where ‘Night doesn’t fall/It rises out of low spots.’

Hennen has been publishing since 1974 but is receiving national distribution just recently. 

“It’s hard to believe that this American master—and I don’t use those words lightly—has been hidden right under our noses for decades. But despite his lack of recognition, Mr. Hennen, like any practical word-farmer, has simply gone about his calling with humility and gratitude in a culture whose primary crop has become fame. He just watches, waits and then strikes, delivering heart-buckling lines.”

—Dana Jennings, The New York Times. 


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