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This is, as the title suggests, a book of sentences, sentences that uncover with intelligence and grace the web of daily life, whether in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park or outside her mother's house in Detroit. Henning's surfaces are straight forward, yet her non-sequiturs and leaps are connected by an invisible web that links strands of ordinary, uncommon humanity to the absurd and the cosmic.
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.
Barbara Henning's Detective Sentences are fastened with empathy. Lived sorrow for our failures to connect, and a tender knowledge of human potential is the larger sense these discrete and enigmatic sentences illuminate. The micro tales and poems of Detective Sentences never flaunt the whole situations from which they emerge. Like the outline of a body her phrases impart the residue, memory's investigative unveiling process here in this house inside a house / with a spider tattooed over your breastbone.
Barbara Henning was born in Detroit, Michigan. She has lived in New York City since 1984 and is the author of three collections of poetry, Smoking in the Twilight Bar (United Artists, 1988) Love Makes Thinking Dark (United Artists, 1995), Detective Sentences (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), a novel Black Lace (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), a novel You, Me, and the Insects (Spuyten Duyvil, 2005); three artist book collaborations, Words and Pictures (with Sally Young), The Passion of Signs (with Georgia Marsh, Leave Books), and How to Read and Write in the Dark (with Miranda Maher); and two pamphlets, Me and My Dog from Poetry New York, In Between from Spectacular Diseases (England); and a series of photopoem booklets, Found in the Park, Up North, Aerial View, Teacher Training, Thakita Thaka, and My Autobiography. A teacher for many years at Long Island University, she now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.