“Heartfelt congratulations on Just Another Day in Just Our Town, again one of the top poetry books of the year, if not THE top one. What I said about Navigating The Distances I’ll say once more, with feeling. It’s great to see so much brand new work. Immense success to the book, as it deserves!”
– X.J. Kennedy
“Just Another Day in Just Our Town gives us Bruce Bennett’s New and Selected Poems, a wonderfully readable book, the language clear, graceful, and accessible. Whether writing about a mouse drowned in a watering can, meeting a girl on a plane, hitting a deer while behind the wheel, a pet tortoise, or a tyrannical teacher, Bennett shows us how just another day in what seems an ordinary town is really astonishing and anything but ordinary when the raw material of daily life is filtered through a fertile imagination.
The title poem sounds one of the book’s major themes: life is a death sentence for people and animals. Some people get cancer, some people die in car wrecks, some are executed in prison, some animals get hit by cars, some drown in lakes, some fall to predators. But the atmosphere as a whole in these pages is not emotionally overcast. Sun often breaks from behind the clouds. Small town life, of course, is not necessarily idyllic and I really enjoyed ‘Small Town Haiku’ where Bennett humorously shows us as much: ‘I said Hello. / I always say Hello. / I know it irritates him.’ Among his many gifts is a terrific sense of humor. Another funny poem involves wanting to throw a live rat into the cellar of a nuisance neighbor.
Though known as a formalist, Bennett is equally impressive with open forms. But even his sonnets, villanelles, and sestinas are so formidably fluent you are captivated by what is being described and are often unaware of form—form that always calls attention to itself in the hands of less skilled poets. I really enjoy his parodies or departures from classic poems by Poe, Marlowe, Rossetti, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Housman, and many others, some anachronistically funny, such as Dickinson sitting at her computer. Or, say, just the wildly comic variation of a the famous William Carlos Williams note poem: ‘This is just to confess // I have eaten / the maid / who was in the kitchen . . .’
Amazed by his versatility, I don’t know anybody who has written more penetrating lyrical narratives about the relationship between teachers and students while using dramatic monologues and various personas. Terrific poems. ‘Fat’ is immediately engaging, makes us think of student bullying, loneliness, and strikes a note of recognition. And ‘Missing the Class’ is a confessional poem of guilt and heartbreak about the possible suicide of one of the speaker’s students.
Just Another Day in Just Our Town is the kind of book that people who claim poetry is beyond them would understand and be moved by.”
– Peter Makuck, Founding Editor of Tar River Poetry, poet, short story writer, Emeritus Professor at East Carolina University