Critiques

Review Excerpts:

Rain Taxi: March, 2002:
"At times laugh-out-loud hilarious, at others gentle and deliberate like fingers kneading the scalp, Jim Heynen's latest collection of poems--and his first in many, many years--presents a portrait of the world viewed with eyes which never cease to be delighted, combined with an architect's ardor for detail: 'Love Among the Escargot,' for example, combines many of Heynen's poetic strengths. In the poem he recounts the turtle-paced mating dance of the French delicacy. He writes 'from lips like camels',/voluptuous and soft,/ they extend tongues armed/ with tiny spears, which/ gently arouse their necks/ to bluish white." As the speaker watches the snails, his compassion for the 'slow tide' of their lives builds until: 'My hunger gone,/ I feel no loss./ It is almost noon.'

In poem after poem, Heynen does the work of a still life painter by imbuing the mundane with the sacred. In 'Child Lost in Campus Coffee Shop' he takes a seemingly meaningless event and transforms it into one of those times 'when anything/ can be, the way the poem/ may flare its tiny lungs/ to breathe the disparate air' using the occasion of a lost child's scream. The scream--a universal experience--pulls the faceless patrons together: 'Our faces, our whole lives turn./ We lean together, reluctant,/ rearranged, and one.' Composed of selections from two previous collections and spiced with recent work, STANDING NAKED provides strong justification for Heynen's regular return to the habit of poetry writing." Ken Rumble

Home News Tribune, (New Brunswick) Sunday, September 16, 2001:
"Jim Heynen's newest collection insistently echoes William Carlos Williams' advice of "no ideas but in things."
And one of the things most real to Heynen is the land. . . . Reading Heynen's tightly constructed realistic poetry can make one a believer . . . in the daily salvation offered by interacting with what is real.
This poet reads deceptively easy because he has taken care to remain faithful to a reliance on simple language."

Minneapolis Star Tribune December 16, 2001, F16:
"St. Paul poet Jim Heynen has a delightful offering in 'Standing
Naked' (Confluence Press, 65 pages, $20). Heynen, writer-in-residence at St. Olaf College, employs some of the themes one finds in his short stories and works for young readers--the harsh beauty of rural life--and the same mix
of humor and gravity. But poetry lets him expand into the territories of
philosophy and love.
"Some of his poems, such as 'The Old Farmer Speaks of the Millenium,' are laugh-out-loud funny. Others are beautiful and sad, such as 'Iowa Poem,' in which a son tells his father that although he doesn't go to church, 'in my chest there's still a believer/ praying for a cold clear sky.' 'Tornado Alert' describes a twister roiling through a sky 'hilarious with debris,' taking the form of a mysterious, furious woman."
Pamela Miller

Northfield News, Oct. 6, 2001:
"These poems are beautiful, peaceful. They have their own humor, but portray a world where labor and land are preeminent."
Jerry Bilek

Denise Levertov:
"Jim Heynen's poems have the ring of authenticity in their diction and images . . . He earns the right to claim belief for assertion, by having kept so firm a hold on his roots in the specifics of a country boyhood deeply felt and sharply remembered. The reality continues to connect other times and places at the source of continuing perceptiveness."

Donald Hall:
"When Heynen is right he is powerful, serious, moral, and true." In The Iowa Review

William Stafford:
Jim Heynen can be funny, or serious, or both at once; and he appeals to young and old. They stand in line like Oliver Twists after his readings, to catch a little more. And that porridge is good, nourishing, delicious. It sticks to our shaking ribs.

-- jh