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Fell Hunger

Joseph Lennon

ISBN: 978-1-907056-61-1

Page Count: 74

Publication Date: Friday, April 01, 2011

Cover Artwork: From an oil-on-canvas (cm 69.5 x 58.5), ex voto painting attributed to Giovanni Antonio Vanoni (1810-1886), owned by the parish of San Fedele a Verscio in Canton Ticino, Switzerland. Photo credit and thanks to Don Czeslaw Sutor and Mario Manfrina.

About this Book

Fell Hunger, Joseph Lennon’s first volume of poetry, gathers a body of work from twenty years of writing.  The poems, most derived from the sonnet, reflect on living for many years with an undiagnosed illness, coeliac disease. These reflections are interlaced with childhood memories and experiences of living in New York City, Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere.  The voice of the poems often wrestles with dualities—pain and grace; home and away; violence and hope; sickness and health; religion and disillusionment; heritage and baggage. Seeking new resolutions, the poems then offer soft imperatives of harmony, endurance, and recovery. 

The poems in Joseph Lennon’s debut collection engage—in a deep, plainspoken, unfussed way—childhood memories (a street fight, a wild friend, an unidentified illness), offer samples of the quotidian, passing world  (a woman at a bus stop, a bullet lodged in a tree, a painting by Vermeer), or celebrate the complicated reality that is family.  Whether set in Ireland or America, India or Italy, the poems are alive with sharp-eyed, often elegiac, epiphanies in a universe of blessedly concrete facts, achieving, again and again, honest emotional lift-off.  Eamon Grennan
Joseph Lennon’s intimate poems investigate “the borders that kept me from knowing / the place I am” and take the reader on a radical journey of discovery where “poison grew like grass.”  Illinois is conjured on a road in Ireland, and “harmonies land as cupped berries.” His warm attention to the wider world around him is unflinching so the observed detail illuminates an internal state, where the body gives way to the spirit, and the line to music. These are poems of witness and illumination that urge us to “listen for what is not heard.”  Catherine Phil MacCarthy
The poems of Fell Hunger range warmly and ruefully across the scales of place and displacement—from the American heartland to the lost “family country” of Ireland to Rapallo and Mumbai—and so doing manage to turn the genre of bildungsroman into a transnational narrative of longing and witness.  This deftly assembled orchestration of sonnets and free-verse narratives offers the recognition that, while we may be “from places we do not know,” such loss is also  “the seed of hunger.”  Fell Hunger is an artful and urgent record of discovery and recovery.  Daniel Tobin

Author Biography

Joseph Lennon was born in Newport, Rhode Island, and grew up in Rochester, a small town in central Illinois.  He has lived in Ireland and Italy and travelled throughout India. After a decade in New York City, teaching at Manhattan College, he now lives in Philadelphia with his family and is Director of Irish Studies at Villanova University.  He has published poetry and critical essays on Irish literature and postcolonial studies.  His book Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History (Syracuse UP, 2004) won the Donald J. Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Book from the American Conference for Irish Studies.  Lennon spent many years living with undiagnosed coeliac disease and its effects.

Author photo: Doug Keith

Read a sample from this book

Wood Bullet

    for my father and his

Splitting old wood, I found a bullet
sunk 36 rings in a log, a foreign object
grown over like an undigested comment.
Decades ago it seared through thin bark
into a live oak growing.  New wood filled
its grooves, and the sapling recovered by
absorbing it, embodying it.  Burns smear
the flattened nose where it burst into
the tree, cauterizing the wound it cut.
A half-buried beetle in a log.  I thumbed
it out as a secret, as a son reads letters
of his dead father.  From that smooth
furrow, it dropped into my palm,
its lead heavier than stone.

(Storrs, Connecticut)

Above Rapallo in the Sun

    for our son Nicholas

“This is for the birds,” you say, strewing
strands of your chestnut hair into the maestro. 
You hold your red comb, without irony
in your voice, and pull hairs that will glow

as filaments when your fingers wave
them over the walk in the wind.

What doesn’t matter, here above
Rapallo in the sun, safe with friends,
is how you might mean two things
but do not.  What matters is the nonchalant
hope you seem to have, wondering

whether your strands might soften
some swallow’s nest, alongside
some mother’s feathers.

(10 Agosto, 2007)

Copyright © Joseph Lennon 2011


Interview:  Joseph Lennon discusses his debut collection, Fell Hunger, on RTE Radio 1's "Arena" programme.  Interview by Sean Rocks.  July 2011.

Listen to the interview here>>

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