In A Swift Passage, Barbara Henning celebrates the ongoing life force and transformation as we seek freedom, clarity, confusion and confinement, and everything in between. The pace of life moves us so quickly and with such an urgency to get somewhere in particular and then we circle around and return to where we started, but it's never exactly the same. Henning's stories and poems blur the lines between fiction and autobiography, prose and poetry. The narrator, and her characters, try to tell the truth and then examine how that truth then tells them. Ultimately, narrator and characters question whether what's told is the truth. There are stories and poems about moments of sunlight and violence, biking in the desert, war, child abuse, the BP oil disaster, water pollution, New York City streets, un-health care in the USA, Tompkins Square Park, writers, driving, Halliburton, government contracts, yoga, divorce, flowers, moving shadows, smuggling, picking raspberries in the wilderness. These works are maximalist in that they intersect with Henning's daily life in New York City and on the road driving across country. Our conscious minds hold memory and experience, the private and the public and endless variations. These poems and stories intersect with these variations.
Praise for A Swift Passage:
"'The Dinner' is an utterly captivating work (captivating = gripping, entertaining, impossible to stop reading, compelling, nifty). It brought to mind several times Two Serious Ladies, one of the brightest stars in my constellation of masterpieces."--Harry Mathews
"Henning is masterful in pulling together loose threads of text and weaving them lyrically into poetry and stories which keep you turning the pages. This is a collection which any reader will happily curl up with... This collection represents Henning’s skill, born of years of literary practice, of bringing together words, phases, ideas, lessons, and stories that may on the surface seem unrelated, and making of them a book which feels oddly whole." --Shane A.
Praise for Barbara Henning's other books:
"If men are from Mars and women from Venus, how have we arrived on this blue and green planet, complete with sexual historis and aching with compliants? Barbara Henning's poetry registers the implosion of emotion, graphs the entropy of relationships. The verse and prose poems in Love Makes Thinking Dark are disjunctive meditations composed of pithy non sequiturs motivated by quirks of logic, love, and language. Conventions, anomalies, and violations of grammar, semantics, and syntax are duly noted along with the deadening routine, curious estrangement, and everyday violence of mothers and fathers, daughters and lovers whose significance to one another erodes in relentlessly paratactic sentences. The grammar of parallel lines and parallel lives puts the 'natural' isochrony of American English utterances in service of verses, lines, and sentence fragments tense with the 'normal' stresses of lives under pressure. Each page, 'a postcard with a prosy style,' reveals a deconstructed grammar of passion and loss." ––Harryette Mullen
"Black Lace is a book of ambivalences, shadowy observations and cul-de-sacs, as dreamlikeand harrowing as the fictions of Tillie Olsen and Maurice Blanchot. Barbara Henning's language is sharp and defiant, as if cut with a stylus. Her Eileen looms out at us, trapped in her sullen self-awareness, wanting everything while reminding us of everything we can't have. Set in Detroit during the post-Vietnam years, Black Lace has a power of a Depression-era Walker Evan's photo." ––Lewis Warsh
"In Black Lace, refreshingly, Henning resists happy endings, and instead focuses on the richer material of Eileen's engagement with her conflicting selves, leaving the outcomes of her trials with identity beyond the last page. . . . complex and heartbreakingly authentic." ––Rain Taxi
"Detective Sentences is an exciting and challenging collection. Whether in prose or poetry, Barbara Henning's formal inventiveness has given her apparently autobiographical material a power never found in purely confessional writing. Her vision of an unreasonable world (our very own) is very intelligent, very intense, sometimes funny, always disturbing." ––Harry Matthews
"You, Me, and the Insects is a heartening, bittersweet story of a spiritual struggle and transformation, told in parallel universes of mother, writer, wife in secular USA and dedicated struggling western yogini in luminously detailed India. The writing is marvelously rich, layered, the narrative is compelling. The phenomenal world is the source of terrific insight, delight and surprise. This is not a pretentious New Age memoir but an ageless picaresque and imaginative voyage. A major accomplishment for this extremely salient, charged writer." ––Anne Waldman
"In Barbara Henning’s Cities and Memory the quotidian choreography of a day is teeming with experiential data meshing the feelings of place, people and time. She strips away static silhouettes shadowing the backdrop of time composure and stillness are shattered as continuous reality is layered in this subtle and sustained work. As if a direct challenge to a possible outcome detailed by Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life, 'Immobile inside the train, seeing immobile things slip by. What is happening? Nothing is moving inside or outside the train.' Cities and Memory risks itself by opening up to the flood of continuum streams. These registers are edged with compassion." — Brenda Iijima