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"In his new collection, CONEY ISLAND PILGRIMS, John Hennessy does more than catalogue the things of this world; he sanctifies them: bruised strawberries, Kangols, an unleashed pit bull, Puccini's Suor Angelica, rainy afternoons, Big Bird. It's all here, reconstituted in language and forms that do more than lodge a mirror before our mind's eye. These poems are the gateway to a kingdom of rhythmic feeling, linguistic order, and imaginative explorations."—Major Jackson

photo by Anton Kisselgoff

"In energy-packed lines whose diction dovetails the formal and the colloquial, John Hennessy's Bridge and Tunnel is a genuinely original achievement. America has its bounty of New Jersey poets who have celebrated the common man — Walt Whitman, W.C. Williams, Robert Pinsky — and now, in this first book, we see a young poet bringing his own highly musical truth-telling, wonder, and humor to the unbeautiful industrial landscape, and the hard-luck characters, who haunted a boyhood along the Rahway River. Without an ounce of pretension — about either his working-class roots or the deftly turned poetry he makes of it — Hennessy revisits with increasing power the elemental components of his youth and home town. Most affecting are two monuments: the Merck chemical plant (whose 'single gleaming green' served as 'our Northern Lights') and the 'silver, flame-hipped towers' of the Exxon refinery. (Another factory-worshipping poet, W. H. Auden, would surely have loved all this.) Hennessy's witty mythologizing gift, too — which recasts friends and family in the role of Persephone, or Job--accords us not just delight but dignity: we come away seeing more clearly the confinements, and stubborn attachments, of our own daily lives."
--Mary Jo Salter, author of Open Shutters: Poems and editor of The Norton Anthology of Poetry


cover art by Mira Bartok