Cometry: Hopkins author coins new genre

Hendrickson’s fifth book combines comedy, poetry and a refreshing take on the mundane

The front cover of Dan Hendrickson’s “Dark Glasses.” The sunglasses, a recurring theme in his previous four books written under his Henry Rifle pen name, are cast to the side. “This book I’m dropping the shades and letting people in to see what’s behind the curtain,” Hendrickson said. (Photo courtesy of Dan Hendrickson)

Henry Rifle was born in 1998. He’s written and released four poetry books—and he always wears sunglasses.

But Henry Rifle is no longer. The sunglasses have been shed, and underneath them is Hopkins author Dan Hendrickson. He released his first book, “Dark Glasses,” this June under his real name.

“[It was] a mask to hide behind,” Hendrickson said of his pen name. “I’m taking the glasses off and having the courage to say, ‘Yeah, this is the stuff I think about.’”

“Dark Glasses” is his fifth and largest collection of poems that he places under the “cometry” genre, a self-coined term for his unique combination of comedy and poetry that he says doesn’t fit neatly into any other category.

According to Hendrickson, defining his work as “cometry” has made his poems accessible to people who are otherwise uninterested in poetry but give it a chance once they find out it incorporates humor.

“Poetry [doesn’t] have to be about birds and trees and flowers. You [can] write about any off-the-wall subject. As long as it [is] interesting or funny, you could do something with that. You could make a poem out of that,” he said.

Although many poets incorporate humor into their work, Hendrickson says he is the only “cometry” writer as far as he knows.

“If there are a lot of people doing what I do, I haven’t found them yet. I know they’re out there, but I haven’t found them yet,” he said of his unique writing style.

“Dark Glasses” is a collection of three years’ worth of Hendrickson’s thoughts, scribbled onto sticky notes and, once he had enough, crafted into short poems that would became his self-published book.

He estimates he has accumulated about 5,000 sticky notes over time.

“I’d say 80 percent of them are probably pure nonsense, and the other 20 percent have some possibility and might be interesting or worth pursuing,” Hendrickson said.

Most of the poems are about day-to-day moments, but with a fresh, unexpected take on everyday circumstances. He hopes readers get a laugh out of it.

“Humor makes everyday life much more digestible,” said Hendrickson, who has dabbled in stand-up comedy.

But the funnyman also addresses the other side of everyday life—the battles people fight every day.

American Airlines
Most people don’t live
in America.
Rather, most people
live in various states
of desperation.
In this, at least,
we are United.
-Dan Hendrickson

“We’re all out here performing in this way or that way in our jobs. [The book is] saying embrace who you are, and be fine with that,” Hendrickson said.

According to Hendrickson, self-acceptance is something he has grappled with for years, but came to terms with during the writing process and made a central theme in his book.

“I was a class clown, so it’s accepting that fact. Instead of looking at being the clown as a negative or feeling less for it, I’m saying ‘it’s who I am’ and embracing it,” Hendrickson said.

Although the book follows the personal curves of his life, Hendrickson hopes people can relate to his musings and see elements of themselves in his honest and humorous thoughts on everyday experiences.

Hendrickson said he was unsure of how people would react to his thoughts and writing under his real name, but so far reception has been positive. He said that while his pseudonym was useful tool to continue pursuing creative writing, he is now ready to drop it and write as himself.

Hopkins author Dan Hendrickson (Submitted photo)
Hopkins author Dan Hendrickson (Submitted photo)

“[Henry Rifle] was almost a dummy that I could assign these thoughts and ideas to with a little bit of safety for myself. I often look at Henry Rifle as my lifeboat. It was a device I needed to carry on creatively. I didn’t have the courage then to be my own thing. Henry Rifle, the pseudonym, gave me that courage, freedom and flexibility, and also got me to the point where I thought maybe I can do this under my own name,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson will host a release party and book reading for “Dark Glasses” 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at Sisyphus Brewing in Minneapolis.

He said Henry Rifle might make a guest appearance.

“The great thing about Henry Rifle is I put a pair of sunglasses on and he’s back,” Hendrickson joked.

The book can also be purchased online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. An audio book and e-version is expected to become available in November.

Contact Sabina Badola at [email protected]