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20 Feb - Wordy Tuesday: Christina Hennemann NonFiction

Updated: Mar 4

The Belfast Review Team | 20 February, 2024


Week 1: Memory & Experience


Featured writer: Christina Hennemann


Welcome to Week 1 of our Spring Blog (February - May 2024). Each week we plan to feature a small selection of artists, photographers, writers, poets, and song writers, with works relating to certain themes. Certain days of the week will focus on different creative forms, for example:

'Feast Your Eyes' Sundays (art, media, photography), 'Wordy' Tuesdays (fiction, nonfiction, flash), and 'Rhythm-Verse' Thursdays (poetry and song lyrics).


This week we're exploring the theme of 'Memory & Experience' with featured creatives whose work interrogates or portrays the use of memory and personal experience in the arts.


INTRO


It's rare that you come across a piece of writing that defies convention, upends predicted forms and formatting, and delves so deeply into raw, unfiltered memory and personal experience that it leaves you breathless by the end. We were left staggered by the bravery and in awe of the audacity of this writer. We're so pleased to present this week's second featured nonfiction piece.


Buckle your seat belts, this writer's had a bumpy life.



Writer's CV

CHRISTINA HENNEMANN



Christina Hennemann – Poet & Fiction Writer 

 

 

Summary 

Author of the poetry collection “Illuminations at Nightfall” (Sunday Mornings at the River, 2022). Long listed in the Cranked Anvil Short Story Competition 2020. Published work features in The Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, Goats Milk, Brigids Gate Press, Campfire Poets, Tír na nÒg and elsewhere. Highly skilled in writing about commitment issues, heartbreak, trauma, PTSD, workaholism, and imposter syndrome. Experienced in editing and proofreading underwhelming texts through English teaching post in secondary school. Born and raised in Germany. Based in the beautiful but isolated West of Ireland since 2019.  

 

Experience 

1992  

  • Born six days late and 4,320g heavy. Reluctant to enter this world, fattened up in wise foresight for what’s to come. 

 

1996  

  • Sing Christmas songs in the garden on a hot summer’s day. Father freaks out and locks me up in my room as a punishment. Carve hate speeches in the form of imaginary spells and scrawled hieroglyphs into my notebook, with a thick red pencil.  

  • Father plays dodgeball with me in the gymnastics room in the basement and breaks down crying, apologises and pats my hair. My heart thumps from the exercise, and the emotions.  

  • Ask my mum to write “You are the best daddy” on a sticky note. Copy the words laboriously to give the note to my father.  

 

1998 

  • Ruin my first scrambled eggs. Parents chew on eggshells and father rages once again. Mother soothes and coos without effect.  

  • Pack my suitcase and decide to move out and become a famous singer. Mother explains that I don’t have anywhere to go and won’t survive on the streets. Father threatens to put me in a children’s home if I don’t behave better. I think it might be for the best. 

  • Record my first cassette with karaoke versions of my favourite songs. Father claps along to the beat and dances like a bear, his laugh a stone rolling down my spine and dropping to the ground with a joyful crack.   

 

2000 

  • Baby sister is born. Finally, not alone in this anymore. Vow to myself to always protect her.  

  • Complete my first poetry chapbook, with flower drawings and colourful frames. All poems rhyme. My cheeks burn with pride. Mum briefly looks at it and smiles, then shoves it in the box with the clumsy paintings I made in kindergarten. 

 



2002 

  • Type up a bedtime-story for my little sister on the old typewriter. In it, a baby elephant cannot fall asleep and is always afraid of the dark. Then a black panther appears through magic and fights off all the scary monsters and ghosts of the night. My sister falls asleep before I can finish reading the story to her.  

  • Read one book per day to escape home. Ride fantasy horses and possess witchcraft. 

 

2003 

  • German teacher calls me “Chris”, which I hate, and talks me into submitting a story for the school’s writing competition “Biblio Jo: the Travels of the Library Teddy”. 

  • Chris fails to win the school’s short story competition.  

  • Teacher pats me on the back and urges me to keep writing. Confirms I am talented, to which I blush.  

 

2005 

  • Draw a horrific self-portrait in art class. Cannot stop laughing frantically. Art teacher gives me a scornful look and identifies lack of talent. I agree.  

  • Tell my parents about my first boyfriend, who is twelve years older than me. Father locks me in my room and takes my phone from me.  

  • Write a song in A-minor called “Daddy, why don’t you love me?” 

  • Find refuge in romantic boyband music. Obsess over Westlife’s Shane Filan and lose myself in daydreams.  

  • Write my first love poem, dripping with honey, crusted in dry blood.  

 

2009 

  • First publication in a song lyrics contest anthology as one of ten highly commended contributions with the song “Alive”. Glimmers of hope mixed in a grey mass of teenage depression.  

  • Current boyfriend is banned from the house by father due to lack of manners. Relationship breaks down shortly after, my first heartbreak sparks a creative outburst and produces ten poems that are kept hidden under bras.  

  • Make out with the tall girl from track and field. Feel ashamed. I’m not a lesbian.  

  • Once again escape into a fervent crush on Shane Filan.  

 

2011 

  • Vomit on my father’s shoes as he picks me up drunk in town. Try to unlock the front door with my lipstick. Father questions my sanity and laughs heartily at my hangover the next day. Offers me a beer and I almost puke on him again.  

  • Secretly apply for a song writing course in London.  

  • Call my father “boy” in a moment of immature imprudence, leading to his worst aggressive outburst yet. He threatens to kill me and cut my throat but doesn’t touch me. Don’t know if that’s worse.  

  • Rest of the year is spent with heavy drinking, fucking strangers of all sexes, cutting my arm, nightmares, or entirely sleepless nights. Door is always locked at night.  

 

2012 

  • Graduate from school with Honours but without ambitions. Father says I’m a disappointment.  

  • Insomnia, self-harming behaviour, and frequent panic attacks prompt me to seek help from a therapist.  

  • Accepted for song writing course. Decline my place as father refuses to pay for such nonsense. Enrol for English and History in my hometown instead.  

  • Start working as a model. Agent says I’m too short and too fat. Only get jobs for kitchens and baking magazines. Pay is bad.  

  • Start doing nudes. Pay is up, self-worth down.  

 

2013 

  • Move out of my parents’ house after another bad fight about my non-career with father.  

  • Therapist approves of my move, parents don’t.  

  • Bad conscience for leaving my little sister almost kills me. Keep her around my one-bedroom apartment as much as possible. Spoil her with hot chocolate and cookies.  

  • Move in with a hoarder. Only find out after signing the contract.   

  • Find new place to stay. Neighbour is a freaky nun who overhears intercourse with current boyfriend and scolds me for it in the mornings.  

  • Skip classes in college. All of them.  

  • Sleep improves slightly. Self-harming behaviour stops.  

  • Find freelance job as a writer on an online platform. Earn my living by writing product descriptions for perfumes mainly, and Granny-knickers.  

  • Drop out of English and History. Enrol in Business Administration instead. Need to finish studies quickly to earn more money.  

 



2015 

  • Parents divorce, father moves out. Move back in with my mother and sister and regret it immediately.  

  • Lack of organisation, ambition and kindness attested by my mum. Forced into mowing the lawn in 40 degrees heat.  

  • Skip classes in college. All of them.  

  • Break up with boyfriend for being too nice to me.  

  • Once again escape into a fervent crush on Shane Filan.  

  • Write my first novel draft about a young girl and her mean father. Manuscript never gets to see the light of day, hidden in the dustiest and darkest drawer.  

 

 

2016 

  • Bachelor thesis in Business Administration is marked with second lowest grade.  

  • Move in with my sister. Feel at home for the first time.  

  • All job applications rejected. Ask father to send me money.  

  • Father meets me for the first time in three years and gives me money to study for a teaching degree in English and Politics. We both apologise. What for is being left quite blurry and vague. 

  • Finish therapy. Feel somewhat healed. Vow to never cut myself again.   

 

2017 

  • Crash mother’s car into a wall while pulling out to secretly follow current unattainable obsession, the professor for International Relations. He doesn’t notice. Mother does, though. Poor stalking skills identified.  

  • Attend classes in college. All of them.  

  • Write feminist essay in English and receive an A.  

  • Receive an A in International Relations.  

  • Father is proud of good grades.  

  • Hook up with someone at a party and start a relationship because I can’t bear to say no when he asks me to be his girlfriend.  

 

2019 

  • Current boyfriend is lazy and grows a massive lifebelt around his belly. Talks me into writing his essays for college, in chemistry. I study formulas during the day and keep my eyes shut at night, but he would never leave me. 

  • Break up with boyfriend, who then spills the beans about my therapy in front of my friends.  

  • Move to Ireland with my sister for four months.  

  • Sleep well for the first time in eight years.  

  • Fall in love with a beautiful Irishman and write him love songs and poems which he never lays eyes on.  

 

2020 

  • Receive an A for undergraduate degree in teaching.  

  • Cancel apartment contract in Germany, pack my things. Move to Ireland forever. With my sister, of course, my home-person.  

  • Last day in Germany: fill protein shaker with hot water and shake it – hard. Shaker explodes and jelly-like liquid covers every inch of the kitchen, the persistent smell of artificial peanut flavour. End up painting the kitchen in a hurry.  

  • Irishman breaks up with me as soon as I arrive in Ireland. Start writing poems again that drip with self-pity.  

  • Start master’s degree in teaching. Studies are going well. Attend all classes, complete placement blocks one and two successfully.  

 

2021 

  • Get back together with Irishman. Write a burst of poems about love and trauma.  

  • Poems accepted by orangepeel, Free Verse Revolution Lit, Tír na nÓg, and others. Perhaps they’re not too bad.  

  • Irishman breaks up with me again.  

  • Write more poems, really dark ones.  

  • Poems rejected by Crannóg, Popshot, The Stinging Fly, Poetry Ireland, and others. Perhaps my poetry does suck after all.  

  • Break coffee pot. Order the only available replacement from Amazon Germany for 40€.  

  • Mispronounce “Pisces” in my English class. Students stare at me like frightened sheep.  

  • Complete first draft of a novel about unrequited love.  

 

2022  

  • Get back together with Irishman. Thin seams of hope are barely holding my wounded heart together.  

  • Buy expensive lingerie and stockings for a date night. Ghosted before I can wear them. Heart bursts into a thousand bloody, gooey pieces.  

  • Novel submission rejected by all contacted agents. Re-write entire novel.  

  • Symptoms of exhaustion and burnout ignored. Night shifts of writing continue.  

  • Receive publication contract for debut poetry pamphlet. Name pamphlet after Irishman. Successfully turn heartbreak into art.  

  • Do not revert back to Shane Filan to numb my aching heart. Let the man be.  

  • Mother comes to Ireland to celebrate the book publication and translates my poems; then apologises for not protecting me better. Tears of joy and recognition are cried.  

  • Break coffee pot for the second time. Officially useless in the kitchen.  

  • Receive First Class Honours in teaching degree. Father is proud but misses me immensely. One weeping and one smiling eye regarding the distance between us.  

  • Poetry book sells better than expected. 250€ earned so far, which pays for a novel submission package review.  

  • Voice suddenly sounds slimy and alien in a rare argument with my sister, and we burst out laughing. I can’t even fight properly anymore. And I won’t. I don’t have to.  

 



ARTIST BIO


Christina Hennemann is a poet and prose writer based in Ireland. She’s a recipient of the Irish Arts Council’s Agility Award ’23 and she was longlisted in the National Poetry Competition. Her work is forthcoming or appears in Poetry Wales, The Iowa Review, Skylight 47, The Moth, York Literary Review, fifth wheel, Ink Sweat & Tears, Moria, and elsewhere. www.christinahennemann.com 



Special thanks to the writer for trusting us with her work.


Thanks to all of you readers for reading! Be sure to like, follow, and share.


We have more wonderful creatives coming up this week. Stay tuned for Rhythm-Verse Thursday (22 Feb) with poetry by Diarmuid Cawley and song lyrics by Madelinksi. And don't forget to check out our other Wordy Tuesday post (20 Feb) with nonfiction by Carol McGill. There's also our Feast Your Eyes Sunday (18 Feb) post with artwork by Laura Davis.


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