“Bennett’s artistry lies in his ability to create poems that shatter complacency with bricks of loaded language.” — Quill & Quire on Civil and Civic
“How are you doing, happinesswise?” This is the unifying thread, the casual-sounding but slant and penetrating question posed by these poems as they interrogate what we tell ourselves about happiness, about its opposite, and about ourselves in the process.
Happinesswise is both cacophony and chorus: it’s the voices of palliative patients and physicians, and the place where the dream state of a young pregnant woman clashes with the online reality of daily life. It’s personal too: a suite explores a five-year period of Bennett’s autistic son’s childhood, charting a journey of love and misunderstandings, of anxiety and celebration as the wonders of neurodiversity unfold.
There are elegies too. And confessional poems, like “On the Occasion of Her Swearing In,” where Bennett witnesses up close his friend’s remarkable transition from Afghan refugee and grassroots activist to member of parliament and cabinet minister. Other poems demarcate the gaps (literal and less so) found every day in rural Ontario, or consider personal, political, and cultural history within a series of loops and twists.
About the author
Jonathan Bennett is the author Here is my street, this tree I planted for ECW Press, and After Battersea Park and Verandah People for Raincoast Books. In 2003, he was a finalist for ARC magazine’s “poem of the year” award. Originally from Sydney, Australia, he now lives in Port Hope, Ontario.
“Incisive, elegant and fierce, Bennett’s Happinesswise tackles the most illusive and illusory aspects of our culture. It ranges widely in terms of style and theme, but will nonetheless leave readers with the distinct impression of having encountered something wholly real.” — Johanna Skibsrud, author of The Sentamentalists
“There is nothing like opening a book of poetry and feeling instantly at home . . . Jonathan Bennett is interested, as the title suggests, in our search for happiness, but he is equally curious about the other result. Bennett isn’t afraid to let us in to the personal and a suite of poems about his autistic son is as jarring and sad as it is beautiful, hopeful and wise.” — Today’s Book of Poetry
“The poems in the book’s final two sections are technically accomplished, displaying Bennett's mastery of sound and phrasing. . . . [Happinesswise’s] pleasures — and there are many — accumulate steadily throughout the book.” — The Malahat Review