John Hennessy

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Selected Works

story at big bridge #16, fifteen year anniversary issue
"surfside rats"
Read poems from Bridge and Tunnel


"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

AfTernoons with Eveline

A gritty rhapsody to New Jersey's industrial landscapes and the diverse people who inhabit them.

read POEMS here

"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

What's Your Exit?
A Literary Detour Through New Jersey

"As its title predicts, at the heart of BRIDGE AND TUNNEL is The Other Side, the state of mind that is New Jersey, Manhattan's oily shadow--the Oranges, the kills, the Merck plant. With perfect pitch, John Hennessy hits all the flats and sharps of life there--the jogging bras and bucket-drops, the old time religion and slag heaps. His eye is canny, his language is keen, his take is wise and acute. This book sizzles!"--JD McClatchy, author of HAZMAT and editor of THE YALE REVIEW