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Reviews

"In his thoughtful examinations of plotline, script, the imperatives of fiction, and the architecture of jokes, Hastings Hensel artfully constructs intriguing possibilities in these masterful poems, whose sonic textures are breathtakingly beautiful and whose emotional power is palpable. These skillful and formally accomplished poems invoke the beauties of nature and language alike and celebrate, in the end, the joy, the 'comedy of snags,' and, yes, the humanity that is everywhere present and available to us if we take the time to look."

"Hastings Hensel's quickfire mind shines through the wise and wily poems of Ballyhoo. Hensel is a poet attuned to the twists and strains of English, and here he gives us 'new sounds / for the things we've missed.' Humor may be his central subject, but he is less interested in comedy than the forces driving it. He writes brilliantly about those moments when a joke goes sour or reveals its darker heart, but he knows, too, what laughter makes possible: 'forgiveness, / which is release.' This book is a knockout, and one I will read over and over."

"Reading Hastings Hensel's Ballyhoo is like uncoiling a hank of yarn. Some threads connect backwards to his first, award-winning poetry collection, Winter Inlet—fraught family, coastal terrain, layered language, rural culture—but there is something new here asserting a strong poetic gravity. Call it topos, logos, mythos, maybe? Something 'deep as the mind's mysteriousness'? I will return to these finely spun poems many times."

"In Ballyhoo, Hastings Hensel searches for humor and supplies wit like only the most skillful poets do, in the misery and despair we sometimes find in our everyday lives, in the uncomfortable passivity and vapidity of a world too often humorless, which if approached with Hensel's Feste-like knuckle-knock and lilt can express 'Hallelujah' and 'Ballyhoo' not as occupying mere phonetic kinships but as a rip into dire truth. Ballyhoo is one of the most underhandedly insightful collections I have ever read. Hastings is a coney-catcher, and we are his marks who don't realize after we have left the poems how we have been stripped bare, had our weaknesses exposed."