X. J. Kennedy

Coleridge said that poetry must give pleasure, a requirement that Bruce Bennett’s work has long filled to overflowing. It is one of the most enjoyable bodies of poetry I know, which isn’t to say that Bennett— master fabulist and satirist, parodist par excellence—does not go deep. Often he compresses realms of wisdom into tight, economical passages. This generous harvest of his new and selected poems will nourish mind, heart, and funnybone. The epigrams in “Mind Sets” are in themselves worth the price of admission, and they’re only the briefest of Bennett’s wares. You’ll find balladry, villanelles, sonnets, masterly free verse, brand new tales that might have come from Grimm’s, and a good deal more. Some of Bruce Bennett’s poems look likely to stick around for as long as people keep reading American.

Dennis Leavens
poetry editor of PAINTBRUSH
"The World of Bruce Bennett" (Volume XXX, 2003/4)

Using an encyclopedic range of forms and styles, Bennett delights with his quips, epigrams, spoofs, satires, fables, tales, parodies, and epitaphs. And this is just the beginning of his variety. Those who love poetic lines, forms, patterns, parodies, and imitations find a cornucopia here: couplets, tercets, quatrains, and more; villanelles, sonnets, and limericks... One can’t help but enter into Bennett’s playful sincerity, engage with his joy, humor and honesty...

Bruce Bennett’s collected work represents a most unusual and delightful assortment... It represents craftsmanship of a careful, dedicated, and devoted worker in the fields of literature. It demonstrates a life lived among the great poets and writers of the language, a respect for their work, an appreciation of their skill, and an eye-level look at their accomplishments... Bruce Bennett’s art is very knowing, in its moral wisdom, its literary immersion, and its genuine sympathy. For those of us who read for pleasure and instruction, Bennett’s art delivers.

Christina Pugh (on The Holding Stone)
author of poetry collections Rotary and Restoration

"I've lived that dream all day": when it comes to love, who among us has not done the same? In his deeply moving collection The Holding Stone, Bruce Bennett asks how we can differentiate dream from the real world -- how indeed we can think when hunted, and haunted, by the specter of love. I admire these poems' relentless coupling of feeling and skepticism: Bennett knows that love is not only an experience of the other, but also perhaps the most fundamental test of the self. His formal poems have always seemed as effortless and natural as breathing; in his recent work, this formal ease has become an astonishingly effective vehicle for condensing powerful emotion. In epigrammatic couplets, sonnets, and villanelles, he clarifies vicissitude into resonant, urgent music. When we hear him speak, and sing, we are more than gratified: we are compelled to recognize the frailty and strength of our own selves.

Beth H. Evans (on The Holding Stone)
author of novel The Watering Hole

Every time I read this collection, I ache. Everyone who has known the failure of love (and who hasn't?) will read this book of poems with a mix of gratitude and torment, as the poet's words take us smack-dab back into the center of that remembered grief. But they make us do more than remember; they make us re-live that pain. Wow. Powerful, very powerful.

Bruce Bennett is a remarkable poet. To pour out all that emotion in so controlled a form as to make it succinct enough that it cuts right through to the center of the heart...

One might feel torn between saying "thank you" and "damn you."

Mary Veazey (on The Holding Stone)
editor of Sticks Press

Bruce Bennett never danced with Mary Beth ("whose lightest touch / would cause my death..."), or so he told us in an earlier book about Romantic Love -- tongue-in-cheek, sophisticated wit having been his milieu. But of late his Muse has compelled him to skate over dangerously thin ice in ever-tightening sonnet and villanelle circles of Passion, Heartbreak, Loneliness, and Despair, with nary a comedy mask available to pop on for relief. These emotions are evident in numerous short poems as well, as in "Vista," quoted in its entirety:

The air is clear
here, without you.

I can see nothing

in every direction.

It's rare, nowadays, for a poet to switch masks, especially so dramatically, in mid-play, but Bennett has pulled it off, leaving the reader on seat's edge, eager to see what Brave New Worlds of Love he may have discovered.