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The Broken Bone Tongue
Black Buzzard Press
Austin, TX 2009
ISBN: 978-0-938872-42-9
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Tenderness House
Dianna Henning
Poet’s Corner Press
Stockton, CA 2004
ISBN# 0-9755972-0-5

The lifeblood of poetry has always been the small press, and the Sacramento area is lucky enough to have a boatload of these little gems. One of the most prolific is the Stockton-based Poet’s Corner Press, run by David Humphreys and a group of his fellow poets. The latest book from Poet’s Corner is The Tenderness House by Dianna Henning.

Henning has a very elegiac quality to her writing: death, crows, grief and longing. That probably could be said of most poetry, but in this case, there’s also a very subtle sense of self-ironizing awareness. For example, in “Jump-Off Joe Creek,” which examines the story behind the oddly named Oregon stream, Henning takes an inward turn: “but finally, / like Joe on the bridge, you must select / one life and hold it like flint underneath your tongue, / something made in the shape of an arrow.”

Red Rock Review • 137

Richly Woven Lament: A Review of Dianna Henning’s The Tenderness House – A Review Excerpt by Rich Logsdon:, Editor for The Red Rock Review

The Tenderness House, a recently published collection of poems by Dianna Henning, reveals a life passionately yet tenderly embraced by a poet who integrates a keen apprehension of life’s beauty, expressed in rich imagery and subtle puns, with an almost painful awareness of the brevity of existence. Indeed, the joyful tenderness contained in so many of these poems is tempered by a melancholy that, in this critic’s mind, moves this collection to the level of a richly woven lament. It is upon this level that Henning’s poetry can be most fully appreciated, for almost every line in The Tenderness House is tempered by a sadness borne of the conviction that life is a glorious though fleeting essence that can most expertly be captured in art.

One of Henning’s pieces that most eloquently captures this aesthetic is “Bottle Blessers”:

An early winter breeze sweeps leaves into chaos. I think of the bottle blessers, Seventeenth Century settlers, who dried herbs, and poured laurel, mint, tarragon, into a pleasing arrangement, then capped, and tied lavender strands about the bottle’s neck, their gift blessings for neighbors. Earlier, I’d tromped over duff for sage, Scotch-broom, bitterbrush, and tiny shoots I’d snipped at their base. As I poked stem, small branches of manzanita into twig form, wove them in and out so the wind wouldn’t unravel their fragile hold, darkening skies spoke of snow. Whatever the weather will hurl onto the porch my wreath will know, and I, warm inside my home will know it too as harsh winds knock.

This is a splendid poem, laced with subtle rhymes and alliteration and packed with vivid images, that demands that it be read on the literal and symbolic levels. And once the reader makes the metaphorical leap, the truth emerges: offered as blessings to the reader, Henning’s poems delicately interweave with each other and form a fragile barrier against the harsh winds that threaten to rob us of our memories of life’s most wonderful moments…

BLURB for The Tenderness House by Ioanna Veronika Warwick

“To me, Dianna Henning is, above all, the Luminous Poet of What’s Near. ‘Only ripe memory of falling apples endures–the way we once bit into each other,’ she writes, revealing her appetite for tasting life to its fullest. Whether it’s the stones in her Japanese fountain or the birds decorating a dinnerware set, everything becomes alive in Henning’s powerful, image-driven poems. She en-souls the world, a sacred task that has always been the liturgy of anything we dare call poetry.”–Ioanna (“Ivy”) Warwick, poet and poetry teacher published in Poetry, Best American Poetry 1992, Ploughshares,The Iowa Review, etc.

A Response to The Broken Bone Tongue

September 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm

“The Broken Bone Tongue” is powerful, complete food for the soul.”
by Val Rhodes, Australia

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