Happinesswise RGB

(ECW Press, 2018)

from the jacket…

“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

“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.

Civil and Civic


(ECW Press, 2011)

from the jacket…
“As accomplished as Jonathan Bennett is at using language, he’s never fussy or precious about it. With his exacting, contemporary voice, part colourful reporter, part reluctant witness, his lines gain their effect by serving experience in the most necessary way possible, via clear-eyed attention and vivid diction. The result is an immediacy often lacking in other poetry. Civil and Civic’s nimble narratives will crackle in your ear.”  David O’Meara

The poems of Jonathan Bennett’s second collection, Civil and Civic, probe for present meanings of civility and civic mindedness, search for boundaries between private and public realms, and question the sprawling and often unintended effects of transparency and obligation. Medicine, the military, science, public relations, social justice, media, business, and the environmental movement are just some of the worlds these poems inhabit.

Here is my street, this tree I planted


(ECW Press, 2004)

From the back jacket…
Winding their way through places and lives, each undergoing a change of purpose, the poems of Jonathan Bennett’s Here is my street, this tree I planted move with seductive language and irresistible drive. As awestruck by the possibilities of change as it is keenly aware of loss, this debut collection rejects the too-easy judgments of navigation guided solely by a single moral compass. With influences as diverse as the poetry of Les Murray and the paintings of Edward Hopper, these poems—linguistically, culturally, emotionally—hitch one end of the globe to the other. Moving, seeking, at times playful, but always reveling in an articulation of transition: Bennett is writing the kind of poetry this country needs—one that is as universal as it is Canadian. 

Critical Praise

“[Bennett’s] ideas are vividly demonstrated in tightly-written poems so compressed, so chock-full of vibrant imagery and sense impressions that they evoke the powerful, timeless works of Dylan Thomas.” – January Magazine

“A good debut.”- Matrix

“Jonathan Bennett’s poetry debut, Here Is My Street, This Tree I Planted, invokes a striking poetic language in constructing the urban and natural landscapes of Canadian and Australian culture. Bennett roots his reader firmly in location in order to explore familiar themes of displacement, identity, and “home.” The transition of locale offers further considerations of these constructs as shifting esoteric spaces we occupy. Beyond the lyrical language, regard for form, and cultural insight of this collection is the humour, tragedy, and aesthetic triumph that furnish both everyday life and good poetry.” – TaddleCreek