Happinesswise by Jonathan Bennett, ECW Press

Happinesswise: Poems

Bennett, Jonathan

  • “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.


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  • Jonathan Bennett is the author of seven books, including two previous collections of poetry, Civil and Civic and Here is my street, this tree I planted. He is a winner of the K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Literature. Born in Vancouver, raised in Sydney, Australia, Bennett lives in the village of Keene, Ontario.

  • Published: April 2018

    ISBN: 9781770414280

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 72


“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

“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

“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