top of page
What Feels Like Love:
New and Selected Poems

C & R Press, March 2021
What Feels Like Love Cover.jpg

What Feels Like Love: New and Selected Poems brings a selection of new poems that grapple with the challenges of raising and autistic son, adopting a teenage daughter from foster care, and learning of a friend’s suicide together with the best work from Tom C. Hunley’s six previous collections.

Praise for Tom C. Hunley’s Poetry:

“The new work of Tom C. Hunley included here shows the passion, muscle, and heart of his six previous collections and offers a glimpse of a bright future for a poet who continues to get better and better. The emotional punch of each one of these new poems is simply stunning.”
—Jim Daniels

“Why isn’t Tom C. Hunley a household name? We know Airwick and the Dyson Ball, but why isn’t Hunley . . . as familiar? Perhaps he’s not as funny as Jerry Seinfeld, but he’s certainly one of America’s funniest poets. . . . His diagnosis of the human condition is dire; yet, there is more than one consolation in his art. In payment for our willingness to follow him through some of the grittier alleys of self-absorption, we receive an invitation to self-awareness and the chance to laugh at ourselves.”
—Lee Rossi, New Orleans Review (review of Plunk)

“Winner of the 2007 Holland Prize from Logan House Press, Tom Hunley’s Octopus reaches out every one of its eight arms and pulls the reader in. The poems cover the speaker’s misspent youth, his early marriage, the loss of an infant to SIDS, divorce, new love, remarriage, a career in teaching, and the births of three sons —a lifetime requiring eight arms. . . .With the skill and grace of a juggler, Hunley handles a variety of topics and techniques, moving sinuously from one poem to the next and offering a multitude of pleasures.”
—Diane Lockward, The Texas Review

Here Lies, Tom C. Hunley’s new poetry collection, boasts a bigger body count than most summer blockbusters—but the body always belongs to him. Hunley fakes his own death dozens of times within these verses, presumably taking the sting out of death by challenging it to a staring contest. . . . Saying the poet, musician and professor at Western Kentucky University possesses a gallows humor qualifies as a true understatement.”
– Aarik Danielsen, The Englewood Review of Books

Adjusting to the Lights
Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner 
Rattle, November 2020

In Adjusting to the Lights, Tom C. Hunley explores his relationship with his two special needs children: a daughter adopted out of foster care as a teenager, who has borderline intelligence and whose life choices are heavily influenced by her past abuse and neglect; and a son who has autism and continues to be a mystery and an inspiration to his father. Hunley’s struggle to parent his children is our struggle to relate to those among us who are different and discounted by society. Poems express his joy, frustration, fear, pain and triumph in parenting, and also the ways that Hunley falls short and becomes broken himself as shown through the cracked mirror of these children. Poems from Adjusting to the Lights previously appeared in Crazyhorse, Michigan Quarterly Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Waxwing, and several other literary journals.


Praise for Adjusting to the Lights:


Hunley’s recent poems about his kids keep blowing me away. The movement and rhythm is so perfect. Some of the best poems I’ve been reading. Seriously, more of his poems get to me than just about anyone’s. He does so much of what I keep trying to do, and lately I like his better and that’s pissing me off.
—Tony Gloeggler, author of Until the Last Light Leaves

Breathtaking. These poems are so sharp and tragic. Truly stunning work. So raw and real. Lovely and dark and everything poems should be.
—Whitnee Pearce, author of Kitsukuroi

Incredibly powerful and skillful poems. The best of them are vulnerable, sincere, compassionate, self-deprecating, insightful, and full of humility. I love the big, and important, issues these poems explore. The theme of father/daughter is very moving, important and I have not read many male poets writing about this.
—Chrys Tobey, author of a woman is a woman is a woman

The Poetry Gymnasium:
110 Proven Exercises to Shape Your Best Verse
McFarland Books, 2019
The Poetry Gymnasium Cover.jpg

This expanded edition adds sixteen new exercises designed to inspire creativity and help poets hone their skills. Each exercise includes a clearly-stated learning objective, historical background matter on the particular subgenre being explored, and an example written by undergraduates at Western Kentucky University. The text also analyzes work by leading American poets including Billy Collins, Denise Duhamel and Dean Young. The book’s five chapters correspond with the five canons of classical rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.

Praise for The Poetry Gymnasium

“If writing poetry is exercise–and it is, physically and emotionally, as callisthenic as running, jumping, breathing–then we have here in Hunley’s The Poetry Gymnasium our barbell, our track, our ever-present coach goading us on. This book should be in every writing classroom: inventive, necessary, vital for both student and professor, Hunley’s book is a staple in every workshop I teach.”—Gary McDowell, Belmont University, author of Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None

“The Poetry Gymnasium is the complete workout! While it can help poets create new work in a variety of aesthetics and modes–New Formalism and Language poetry, Imagism and Ultra-Talk–anyone who trains with the The Poetry Gymnasium certainly will make poems that are beautiful, powerful, and energetic.”—Michael Theune, Illinois Wesleyan University

“This new edition features more exercises to jump-start the muse, and more fantastic, enlightening models by contemporary writers to show us the many ways a poem begins, searches, makes and arranges its music and comes to life. The Poetry Gymnasium is a must-have for students and teachers alike. It’s lightning in a bottle.”—Matthew Guenette, author of Vasectomania

“Provides nearly one hundred practice lessons for improving all aspects of poetry and poetic prose”—Reference & Research Book News

“This is the book that should be in every workshop.”—Richard Jackson, University of Tennessee–Chattanooga, author of Resonance and Unauthorized Autobiography

“If you’re a writing teacher, you’ll find yourself itching to use the exercises. If you’re a student reading The Poetry Gymnasium, you’ll be lamenting, ‘Man, why wasn’t I in that class?’ Hunley makes teaching one continuous act of invention for both the student and the instructor.”—Alexandria Peary, Salem State University

“Finally, there’s a text that merges theory and practicality and helps students build, strengthen, and tone their poetry muscles.”—Emari DiGiorgio, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Here Lies
Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2018

Tom Hunley’s Here Lies is an entirely delightful book of poems, a rarity in many ways as much of 21st Century poetry is unapproachably dull and too serious about itself. Hunley, page after page, delivers comic insight and wit into the dark matter of living and dying. If life is too serious to take seriously, then Hunley gives the reader access to the cosmic joke and keeps us enthralled—by the music he brings to his poems and by the strange newness in which he sees. Here Lies is not necessarily the beginning of an epitaph, nor the beginning of a limerick, but it may be the introduction to some grandiose untruth. Here, in this place where we live and breathe, are the lies that make us silly creatures. Hunley leads us into the valley of death and gives us cause to laugh about it.

The State That Springfield Is In
Split Lip Press, 2015

Inspired by America's most prominent hallmark of modern pop culture, The Simpsons, poet Tom C. Hunley shares his narratives––autobiographical or allegorical––by channeling the eccentric personas of residents in the animated sitcom's town, Springfield, and trusting their voices to speak on his behalf, resulting in true poetic entertainment. As author Denise Du Vernay states in the collection's introduction, "Tom's interaction with The Simpsons doesn't follow sitcom or even cartoon rules. He doesn't have to. Tom follows a mysterious set of rules, completely unknown to those of us without a poet's sensibilities." That is the sentiment that defines Hunley as an artist. He is a poet who has a firm grip on poetic formalism (the "rules"), but, as is the case with any true artist—perhaps a guitarist for the sake of a metaphoric example—Hunley knows when it's time to part from his Eddie Van Halen trickery in exchange for what resonates with those who are unfamiliar with the "rules," "theories, and "doctrines" of art: gritty power chords strummed in the manners of Kurt Cobain or Johnny Ramone. 

While capable of boggling a reader's mind with poetics only a limited audience bothers to appreciate these days, Hunley has taken to The Simpsons in order to depart the shoebox diorama boundaries most readers and writers of verse wallow in, and instead reach out to those of us who want to feel aroused by humor and drama rather than feel disoriented by, for example, accounts of lucid dreaming juxtaposed with archaic Polish folklore found in the nationalistic opera of Stanislaw Moniuszko. In short, Hunley wants poetry back on the map as an element of pop culture rather than vaulted property of academia and patrons of Sotheby's auction house. The State That Springfield Is In may very well be the poetry collection to materialize his bold objective.

WSC Press, 2015


My manuscript got picked up like a hitchhiker, bedraggled and haggard, and I need words to cover the back cover. I don’t want to rouse any of my poet friends from their lonely fame. They should be writing poems, not blurbs. They should be jogging or having prescriptions filled. We can all agree on this, I think. They should be tending to their gardens and their students. They should be closing the bar, working on their lines. I could walk up to Matthew Dickman at AWP and go “Matthew, please blurb my book” and he might do it. See, I’m on a first name basis with Matthew Dickman, so you should read me would be what the blurb would say, regardless of what words he put in it. Eduardo Corral is the nicest guy in po-biz, and I’ll bet I could cajole him into writing “These richly-inhabited poems glimpse the mysteries and do not flinch when confronted with the inevitablity of tragedy. In his latest collection to date, Hunley ricochets between irreverent defiance and childlike awe. Reading this book is like taking jello shots at Disneyland.” But what would that mean? Don’t ask me; ask Eduardo.

Plunk: Book Review by Lee Rossi - New Orleans Review
Creative Writing Pedagogies
for the Twenty-First Century

Southern Illinois University Press, 2015

The creative writing workshop: beloved by some, dreaded by others, and ubiquitous in writing programs across the nation. For decades, the workshop has been entrenched as the primary pedagogy of creative writing. While the field of creative writing studies has sometimes myopically focused on this single method, the related discipline of composition studies has made use of numerous pedagogical models. In Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century, editors Alexandria Peary and Tom C. Hunley gather experts from both creative writing and composition studies to offer innovative alternatives to the traditional creative writing workshop.
Drawing primarily from the field of composition studies—a discipline rich with a wide range of established pedagogies—the contributors in this volume build on previous models to present fresh and inventive methods for the teaching of creative writing. Each chapter offers both a theoretical and a historical background for its respective pedagogical ideas, as well as practical applications for use in the classroom. This myriad of methods can be used either as a supplement to the customary workshop model or as stand-alone roadmaps to engage and reinvigorate the creative process for both students and teachers alike.
A fresh and inspiring collection of teaching methods, Creative Writing Pedagogies for the Twenty-First Century combines both conventional and cutting-edge techniques to expand the pedagogical possibilities in creative writing studies.

bottom of page