Before beginning the reading, Professor Philip Bryant introduced the poet at the Melva Interpretive Center.
“Tom is absolutely fearless in hearing the poems, and writes them with abinding faith,” Bryant said.
Then Tom Hennon rose and stood behind the podium. Before reading, he spoke softly to the crowd, greeting familiar faces. Throughout the reading, he never raised his voice above a gentle drawl. The audience was silent and still, picturing blue jays, crisp snow, and the thunderstorms he spoke of.
Hennen, who was presented with the Bachelor Farmer Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts, read selections from his most recent book, Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected and New Poems. His work also appears in Garrison Kiellor’s anthology Good Poems.
The reading was part of Bards in the Arb. Admission was free and open to the public.
Reviews of Hennen and his work have been published in the New York Times, The Writer’s Almanac.
“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,” Dana Jennings, a writer for the New York Times, said.
“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.”
Hennen is originally from Morris, Minnesota. He began working as a letterpress and offset printer in 1965. He worked in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and later as a wildlife technician at the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota. In 1972, Hennen helped found the Minnesota Writer’s Publishing House.
“I can say, without hesitation, that this collection is one of my favorites, easily one of the best books of 2013,” James Crews said in a review of Darkness Sticks to Everything. “It is most surprising that so few of us have heard of Tom Hennen because his exacting poems, in their own original ways, echo the work of past U.S. Poet Laureates and evoke a rich sense of place, as so few poets deign to do nowadays.”
Now retired, Hennen has written six books with small presses since 1974. Darkness Sticks to Everything is his first book to be nationally distributed.
Hennen’s poems contain a transcendent aspect. Hennen’s work is heavily influenced by Robert Bly.
“Robert Bly: much help from the start, about 1963, and ever since,” Hennen said in his acknowledgements section of Darkness Sticks to Everything.
“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,” Bly said.