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Archive for December 2015

My Secret Wars of 1984 selected as a Best Poetry Books of 2015 by The Kansas City Star! Hurray!


My Secret Wars of 1984
by Dennis Etzel, Jr. Makes the Best Poetry of 2015 list by the Kansas City Star


The whole list is here


▪ “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings,” by Joy Harjo (Norton). Harjo won the 2015 Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award “for proven mastery in the art of poetry.” She is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma and uses her heritage to prove poetry transcends despair. Her jazz background is apparent in the lyrical intensity of the verse.

▪ “Felicity,” by Mary Oliver (Penguin). From a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose first book was published more than a half-century ago comes a simple but poignant collection of verse about love, nature and “those questions that have no ready/answers: first cause, God’s existence,/what happens when the curtain goes/down and nothing stops it, not kissing,/not going to the mall, not the Super/Bowl.” 

▪ “How to Be Drawn,” by Terrance Hayes (Penguin). African-American legacies underpin this book that is as broad, deep and swift as the Mississippi. The poet’s online notes include songs, books, photographs, newspapers and videos.

▪ “The Last Two Seconds,” by Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf). This eighth book by a professor at Washington University shows her adroit mastery of poetic forms. Movement itself is a unifying theme.

▪ “Memories,” by Lang Leav (Andrews McMeel). In this follow-up to “Lullabies” and “Love & Misadventure,” Leav continues to craft poems that beautifully capture the complexity of love.

▪ “My Secret Wars of 1984,” by Dennis Etzel Jr. (Blazevox). Etzel combines memoir, quotations and lyrical prose poems in this experimental stew. He mixes 1984 texts from Marvel comics, Ronald Reagan, feminist writings and George Orwell. 

▪ “Report to the Department of the Interior: Poems,” by Diane Glancy (University of New Mexico Press). Glancy’s versified history, or docu-poetry, stretches from the first Native American prison school to Red Lake Reservation shootings of 2005. Kansas City native Glancy’s beautifully crafted work is a revelation as well as a ritual of condolence.

▪ “Scattered at Sea,” by Amy Gerstler (Penguin). Winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, Gerstler shows what to do with gazillions of factoids accumulating in the age of the Internet. She collages them in exuberant verse scrapbooks.

▪ “A Small Story About the Sky,” by Alberto Rios (Copper Canyon Press). The first poet laureate of Arizona writes lyrical works about the Mexico-United States border. Two languages and cultures mix in the desert geography. Anyone who experiences inner conflict can identify with these poem-songs.

▪ “Twelve Clocks,” by Julie Sophia Paegle (University of Arizona Press). Time and its measures are the focus of this verse meditation. Rock strata, water clocks, sundials and hatch cycles of insects are among the many solid forms the poet considers.

▪ “War of the Foxes,” by Richard Siken (Copper Canyon Press). This poet-painter presents alternative laws of physics. “Landscape With Fruit Rot and Millipede” begins, “I cut off my head and threw it in the sky. It turned/into birds ….” This is just one of many surprises.

Check it all out here
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/books/article49311465.html#storylink=cpy
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My Secret Wars of 1984 by Dennis Etzel, Jr reviewed in the Volta Blog


Review: My Secret Wars of 1984 by Dennis Etzel, Jr.


by Laura Madeline Wiseman

“You put your thumb on a button and somebody blows up 20 minutes later, says Ronald Regan,” writes Dennis Etzel, Jr. in the closing poem of My Secret Wars of 1984, a book that examines the words written and spoken by cultural figures like Ronald Regan during the culturally significant literary year of 1984. For Etzel, 1984 was the year he entered high school from middle school, the year his mother came out, and the year he played Dungeons and Dragons, while also reading books that appeared that year such as Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. Etzel’s secret war reads like a chorus, for the voices here with quotes arranged alphabetically in 366 sentences for the leap year of 1985 include bell hooks, Lyn Hejinian, George Orwell, popular culture writers and editors, and the national weather service, for this storm of language also alludes to an ice storm in Topeka, Kansas, one that sheathed the city in cold, left over 80% of the population without power, and destroyed hundreds of trees trying to bare the weight of two inches of ice. Arranged as blocks of text, the poems offer voices that echo and complicate, layering meaning as they seem to reflect and trouble who spoke that year and why. Etzel writes,

An unspent lunch money becomes a sustenance of comic books. And a number of pages were excised by that agency head there, the man in charge, and he sent it on up here to CIA, where more pages were excised before it was printed, says Ronald Reagan. And as soon as we have an investigation and find out where any blame lies for the few that did not get excised or changed, we certainly are going to do something about that, says Ronald Reagan. And as the heroes watch, they are watched in turn. And each evening the pace back home matches the sun’s setting. And I start high school at my lowest. And now we are putting up a defense of our own, says Ronald Reagan. (23)

Here, former president Reagan’s quotations work as a sort of troubling reminder of the cold war tactics that pitted capitalism against communism, of the way politicians speak in the doublespeak that Orwell described in 1984, and of the concerns of teenagers finding imaginary superheroes and imaginary powers a solace amid troubling growing years, as much as the lines remind that Reagan lost his mind as so many do due to Alzheimer’s, a disease that eats holes in the brain and excises what one thought they knew by swapping it with others. The rigorous constraints of My Secret War of 1984 make this first full-length collection an enjoyable and creative read, part of the pleasure reading for how the poet turns each sentence against the ones before and after it, how the poet moves through the alphabet as much as he moves through the spoken and written thoughts produced during that year, and how such lines move against the sweeter, more innocent lines and references such as those like “Please come to my rescue, Atreyu. Please let me find a place to hide” (61), for they remind how the social and cultural world shape us, shape our children, and shaped our younger selves. My Secret Wars of 1984 show how such youth and youthful pasts are full of thinkers, individuals who question and trouble the stories told about war, government information, and gender norms. For example, Etzel quotes hooks, “Feminism defined as a movement to end sexist oppression enables women and men, girls and boys, to participate equally in revolutionary struggle” (34), a line that suggests a powerful and necessary, if secret, war against which the protagonist of such a memoir in verse struggled, one that empowers such a revolutionary poetry of resistance. Collections like My Secret Wars of 1984 that speak resistance through poems retell and reimagine the historic moment, taking on the fragmentation of information and layering it into something whole, complicated, and smart.

BlazeVOX Books (2015): $16.00

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of over twenty books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her most recent book is Drink (BlazeVOX Books, 2015). She teaches in Nebraska. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com


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This Visit by Susan Lewis reviewed in The Daily Art Source

Hurray and congrats to Susan Lewis​ Her fine book was reviewed in The Daily Art Source!! Hurray!!

This Visit

When I first opened this book I saw one line, it jumped out to me. It's from the poem, This Visit, "the grenade of your despair." Later in the poem Ms Lewis writes, "Impassive as viscera exhumed." This speaks volumes to the human condition, the way in which we suffer and the way we dwell in regret and shame. But this is my opinion you must understand, not the views of Ms Lewis.

Hardly ever do you pick up a book of poetry that quickly satisfies your curiosity the way that a book by Susan Lewis will. By writing in brief poetic surges its easy to take them and let each one soak in individually. These lines are very satisfying. Take for instance the poem, "Like Leaves." You will find these two lines,

in a dry wind

You might hear these words in a passing conversation, a story being told. But no, these words are in a very fine poem. Any way you dissect, read or take in the work from This Visit by Susan Lewis you're going to fine something for you and to share.

Chris Mansel

Read the whole review here

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Flutes and Tomatoes by Wade Stevenson Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2015


I am pleased to announce that Flutes and Tomatoes by Wade Stevenson Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2015! The 12/15 magazine issue features the Best Books of 2015 section, which is out now!

The full winners list will be published and made live on 12/21 on the Kirkus Reviews website. You will be able to view and link to it, at that time, here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/issue/best-of-2015/section/indie/lists/

Hip Hip Hurray!!

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Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo Reviewed in Midwest Review


Patient Women
Larissa Shmailo
131 Euclid Avenue, Kenmore, NY 14217
9781609642013, $18.00, 309pp, www.amazon.com

K.R. Copeland

Poet/novelist Larissa Shmailo's latest offering, Patient Women, is a raw, unfaltering, fictional story (heavily peppered, no doubt, with the author's own personal anecdotes) that follows the tumultuous life of one highly likeable Nora Nader - a self-deprecating heroine with an indelible edge.

Nora, the daughter of an overbearing mother and an emotionally detached father; both Nazi prison camp survivors, is determined to assert herself and make her way through the world according to her own rules and regulations. Her whirlwind journey begins in 1970's Queens, NY, where Nora, at the tender age of 12, leaves home and takes to the inhospitable streets of NYC.
While battling a plethora of personal demons, including; sex, drug, and alcohol addiction, as well as severe depression ("I'm never happy. I always feel like Auschwitz inside"), we watch in horror as our protagonist devolves from Ivy League student, to waitress, to prostitute ("The best blow job in NY").

Both physical and emotional abuse is prevalent throughout the course of Nora's life, and slowly but surely long-buried secrets are unearthed.

With unrelenting determination, and a little help from her friends (specifically, a drop dead gorgeous drag queen turned AA sponsor named Chrisis, who assures Nora, in regards to sobriety/recovery, "If I can do this, anybody can.") Nora finds herself capable of both physical and spiritual ascent.

At moments painstakingly heart-wrenching, at others, hopefully poetic, Patient Women is ultimately an in-your-face tale about the resilience of the human spirit, in the midst of familial and societal discord, and the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

Read the whole December issue of Midwest Review here

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Extra Pages

Photos on flickr