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Archive for August 2015

My Secret Wars of 1984 by Dennis Etzel, Jr Now Available!

 To read My Secret Wars of 1984 is to ride an old wooden rollercoaster through a spacious gallery of stained-glass windows, all their colorful shards having been stolen, shattered, then chewed into shape: what we have here are gorgeous and wise assemblages of sharp, scavenged graffiti. Ricocheting from Pac-Man to Topeka to institutional structures to AIDS awareness to Reagan, Dennis Etzel, Jr. masters the skills of fragmentation and disharmony without losing one bit of torque. Sharpen your political acumen on this poetry-memoir of the highest order—and discover much pleasure in the process.

—Amy King, author of The Missing Museum

The sentence inscribes a trauma, bumps over a secret, and accretes toward continuance, which is life. In My Secret Wars of 1984, Dennis Etzel, Jr. constructs little sentence survival packets, brimming with Reaganite Cold War fear and the inescapable “I am” of a teenage boy in a threatening world. Our Superhero of Fragility threads these lines with tenderness, wit, and humor, and comes out the other side more whole than before.

—Allison Cobb, author of Green-Wood

The world of 1984 has a deft tenacity in the hands of Dennis Etzel, Jr. This book blends the personal to the greater political as only the best possible memoir can do. We are all in this world together and the strangest things occur, sometimes when other strange things occur, and I thank Mr. Etzel for his brilliant, sharp reminder.

—CAConrad, author of ECODEVIANCE

Some years brand our history: 1861, 1968, 2001; others are best known as fictions, like 1984, made famous by George Orwell in the real year of 1949. The actual 1984 featured Ronald Reagan's race against Walter Mondale, the discovery of the AIDS virus, dead U.S. Marines in Lebanon, and Prince's Purple Rain album. It was an era in which popular culture and foreign policy came together in Star Wars. Dennis Etzel, Jr., then a teen-ager, played a part in that history. His mother came out as a lesbian in the conservative city of Topeka, Kansas. In prose poem boxes, with sentences arranged alphabetically, the confinement of these years is enacted and challenged. Using sources that include Orwell's novel and Lyn Hejinian's "Rejection of Closure" (another artifact of the 1980s), Etzel re-constructs the era and proposes some ways out, foremost among them feminism. Using the language of that era, Etzel pries opens its boxes of secrets.

—Susan M. Schultz, author of Dementia Blog, vols. 1 & 2 and Memory Cards: 2011-2012 Series (Singing Horse Press)

“My fellow Americans,” Ronald Reagan joked during a microphone sound check in 1984, “I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” This was the same year that the infamous “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was set to three minutes to midnight, the closest the clock had come to the zero hour of annihilation in 31 years. How did we get out of the 1980s alive? Dennis Etzel, Jr.’s My Secret Wars of 1984 attempts to answer this question, documenting a year in which the young poet was surrounded by the apocalyptic millennialism of the Reagan administration at the same time that his mother was coming out in conservative Topeka, Kansas. Deploying language appropriated from comics, gaming, and political speeches of the era, Etzel frames these texts with urgent appropriations from work in poetics and gender studies that he would read later in life—when he, indeed, had survived the ’80s. Even when the young poet of 1984 revels in pop culture escapist pleasures, he discovers that it is impossible to transcend political reality. Amid the kinetic “flash of red and yellow” of his comic books, he admits, “I still hear my father’s warplanes.” Etzel’s masterful merging of the personal and political is matched by an equally vital attention to the politics of poetic form. Unfolding in wildly appropriative, politically astute prose poems totaling 366 sentences—one for every day of that leap year—My Secret Wars of 1984 offers a moving account of a young boy’s effort to find a new language for public and private worlds constantly under threat of extinction.

—Tony Trigilio, author of The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has an MFA from The University of Kansas, and an MA and Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Kansas State University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013) and My Secret Wars of 1984 has work which appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA in Topeka, Bird Runner Wildlife Refuge, and other Kansas spaces. Please feel free to connect with him at dennisetzeljr.com.

Elaine M. Rodriguez is a Kansas-based artist, illustrator, and freelance graphic designer. Her work has been featured in XYZ magazine as well as other local venues and exhibitions. Elaine earned her degree studying art in both Kansas and Arizona. Through subtle design and evocative line-work, she hopes to draw you into the subject that a poet, author or she herself conveys. She has loved storytelling through visual and verbal mediums as long as she can remember.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 102 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-223-5



My Secret Wars of 1984 by Dennis Etzel, Jr. Book Preview

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Dear You by Wade Stevenson Now Available!

 I enjoyed reading your manuscript DEAR YOU. I really admire what you have here.  The poems pop off the page with a stinging emotional power.

Your poem, HER BREATH IS NOT MINE, is a great way to begin this book. I love how you use the natural act of peeing to describe the ideas of elimination in a relationship. You manage to make a poetics of the body. Oriented and focused on the flesh as a metaphor of the distance between the ghost inside the skeleton that is longing for touch but never actually getting to do more than simply migrating from love to lover.
The longing you express, the circle of wanting and waiting, the loss of a wife who no doubt will not return, the possible loss of a daughter, is a clear universal feeling. Your lines, “It’s while she’s asleep that my rage/builds to a fiery crescendo that’s has no place to go,” gets a gold star.
The revolving of wording in the last stanza of TOUCHING YOU is simply great work. And again, in LOOKING FOR YOU, you touch on fine ideas and open the dialog of the body, the essence of the form and how that form can never be replicated. The last two lines sum up such fine circulation of the self versus the other. Which leads into another fine work, YOU AWAY. Moving from Frost’s poem into a new notion of divergence. Footprints in the snows of unknown animals, the seeking of the self within the self and how that new self becomes something unknown to the self viewing itself. Very nicely handled.
YOU LEAVING is a very powerful piece. The raw energy of the poem is something to be admired, charging the stepping pattern of the ever changing stanzas with sonic phrasing, you manage to make art out of the anger and empty feelings of being left behind. Recalling the elimination of the earlier poems, YOU LEAVING makes a mythos of the history of the couples lives together. I love the ending lines, “Our mothers would have been shocked/By the distance a man and a woman can let grow between them.”
FROM YOU is another great piece. Now we have HER voice humming in the book, and it is cold, relevant and knowing. The ethos of the body once again rules the ideas of the poem, and the power of touch --- even the touch of the fingernails --- has the power to be dangerous. You incorporate so many exciting ideas in these poems of the body, they are a fine thing to read, even though they evoke such sadness.
The second stanza is a magnificent description of the distance grief encompasses. And the idea that you could stop your own breathing also gets a gold star. Just as does the follow-up line, “I am an expert at touching things for the last time.”
GETTING THE MESSAGE is an intense detailing of the real power of depression. Just as THE POWER OF YOU is a wonderful follow up piece. “Letting the true silence of mourning reign” begins the next two stanzas that repeat in the middle of the poem and then finish the poem are exceptional forms of expressing division --- even though a part of your tow must still continue due to the daughter shared between you both. It is an optimistic view of regrowth in the face of adversity.
I love WHEN THE STONE BECAME STONE, it calls to the idea of regrowth, the circling of birth from death and the desire to be taught this by the one who left, waking and dreaming with open and closed spaces.
The final poems in your manuscript call on the goal of peace, finding peace and understanding, what a broken life might be like living as a jar, once broken and then re-glued back into place might still find use as a vessel. When I finished your book I still felt the burning emotion that you found in your life as the verve to feed these poems. I also felt that at the end I could find the love that you seek to echo “in the light that’s left behind.”

—Geoffrey Gatza, author of “Apollo” and “The House of Forgetting”


Wade Stevenson was born in New York City in 1945. He is the author of several books of poetry, a memoir “One Time in Paris,” and a novel “The Electric Affinities.”


Book Information:

· Paperback: 68 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-224-2



Dear You- A Memoir With Poems by Wade Stevenson Book Preview

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Rain Check Poems by Aaron Simon Now Available!

 Aaron Simon's lines feel like strokes of a pre-CBS Jazzmaster. Not plastic. More like rosewood with at least a Gibson tuneOmatic bridge. A brrruummm alliteration where each word-note contains the artful play of improv and composition colliding. Aaron Simon is a good band whose record is killing it on the deck these days.

—Thurston Moore

Aaron Simon’s Rain Check Poems talk, sing and startle with deadpan elegance, practically reinventing the archetype of the dreamer as they unfold. Dreams beget dreams in other minds, light accumulates while passing through words, and a playfully alert visual sensibility syncs up with a subtle, frame-building prosody. I admire the offhand strangeness in these poems, the detours into beauty and assertion they propose, and the glimpses and passages of the world they amplify. It's a gorgeous read, especially aloud, to yourself, in a public place somewhere.

—Anselm Berrigan

Rain Check Poems keenly evokes the loss which our entry into the symbolic order thrusts us, that sense of yearning when the sensual and the relational slip into the lacunae of language. Throughout these subtle yet seductive poems, materiality—both grand and ordinary—opens a route of return, the oceanic fullness one feels while “waiting for the kettle to whistle.” Aaron Simon’s poetry whispers to me of what it means to be alive, really alive.

—Dodie Bellamy

Aaron Simon is the author of Carrier (Insurance Editions, 2006), Periodical Days (Green Zone Editions, 2007), and Senses Himself (Green Zone Editions, 2014). His poems have appeared in several publications, including Like Musical Instruments: 83 Contemporary American Poets (Broadstone Books, 2014), Shiny, Exquisite Corpse, Sal Mimeo, Across the Margin, Nowhere, and Harriet the Blog. He studied poetry and philosophy at The New School in NYC, and has lived between San Francisco and Brooklyn since 1999.


Book Information:

· Paperback: 56 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-216-7



RAIN CHECK POEMS by Aaron Simon Book Preview

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Down Stranger Roads by Roger Craik Reviewed in London Grip!


craik stranger roads.

Down Stranger Roads
 by Roger Craik

Blazevox Books, N.Y.2014
ISBN: 978-1-60964-135-1 $16


Roger Craik is very much the Englishman abroad. The alluring cover image of his new collection is derived from a painting by Algernon Newton which is housed in Nottingham’s Castle Museum and Art Gallery. ‘Regent’s Canal, Maida Vale, London’, the picture is called, but the straight stretch of water heading off into the distance under a blue, innocently-clouded sky, could conceivably be of many another city. The names of cities – Paris, Venice, Rome –/ Held out their arms, Louis Simpson wrote in his great poem, ‘My Father in the Night Commanding, No’, and reading through Down Stranger Roads it soon becomes apparent that foreign cities have held out their arms to Craik. They include Amsterdam, Bruges, Sofia and Izmir, in all of which places he has taught and/or spent enough time to cast an attentive eye on people and objects.

But however perceptive he may be, he is always in the role, if not of flaneur, then of outsider. His characteristic tone is that of a slightly bemused, wry observer, yearning, perhaps, for a closer acquaintance with the exotica that passes before his eye and can be turned by imaginative process into something more substantial, but aware that this presumed substantiality is itself elusive, possibly even illusory.

                         And even though
I’m only thirty-three, and even though
I’ve told myself I’ve given up desiring love,
I long in my poorly-cobbled disappointing shoes to rove
these streets I think of as my own
to picture her behind one shutter, just a crack ajar, two candles
guttering, and her fleshy tight-ringed finger
beckoning to me.

Down these mean streets ….

Not hard to imagine a certain kind of moralist tut-tutting at such “orientalism,” as we have learnt to call it. When found, make a note of, Dickens’s Captain Cuttle would say, though he wouldn’t then conclude that Craik should be dragged before the thought police and asked to account for himself. (Thirty-three was, of course, the age which Christ had reached when he was arraigned before Herod, but I doubt Craik intends an allusion.) Cuttle would be more likely to enjoy – he’d certainly understand – Craik’s note of rueful acquiescence in his role as down-at-mouth-and-heel rover in his far-from suave, poorly-cobbled, disappointing shoes.

America, where for years Craik has earned a living as a university lecturer, is, for all its familiarity, no less exotic, or at all events an experience – a culture – from which the poet feels himself partly estranged. A suitably comic, abashed poem ‘Ulysses in the New World’ reflects how the narrator

used to marvel, stunned, when I was told 
how Ulysses would ‘goof,’ ‘screw up, 
and ‘kinda show he had to be the boss – 
a typical jock,’ 
as if he’d locked himself out of his car 
or run out of gas 
or spilt popcorn on his girl’s jeans 
the jerk, 

before recognising that Ulysses belongs to no one culture, because There never was / an Ithaca or home, but just himself, alone, / shiftless, yet immortal as the stars. The last phrase is a routine bit of cheer-up. The real poem ends on alone, / shiftless. Such words might well form an epigraph for Craik’s collection.

But this is not to say that the poems are in any way self-obsessed, let alone confessional. Craik is saved from the indulgences of soul-baring by his very real delight in the world-out-there which he registers, for example, in ‘Heron’:

 thin raincoated William Burroughs of a bird
 stalking hypodermically
 toe-deep in shingle
 or shallows of a stream.

 But on wing,
 shouldering off with six great languid flaps
 all birdbook posturing, you rise magisterial 

‘Magisterial’ is a near-lapse into cliché, although I suppose there is the possible justification of a nod toward some gowned magistrate – the “beak” (ha!); but anyway much can be forgiven of the writer who compares a heron to a raincoated William Burroughs. As it can of the lovely, funny poem in celebration of a grandfather remembered for his prowess at farting. Warned by his mother not to laugh, because ‘this is how older people get –/ you’ll be like this yourself, some day’ / ‘Oh, I do hope so’ the boy replies, and rejoices in the old man’s unembarrassed dismissal of his fart – Get out, you pay no rent!

Memories of home aren’t always so reassuring. Home is the past and, like the places you travel to, can be known only as you appraise it from a distance that it is both physical and emotional. One of the best poems in the collection – all the more powerful for its understatement, its readiness to rest in implication – is ‘First Journey’: As inch by inch the train pulled out / with me inside alone, it begins, with the boy noting his parents as they wave farewell from the platform and, through the glass, watches with a kind of blank detachment his father run alongside until the train leaves the station. The poem ends, powerfully, bleakly, heart-tuggingly, with the boy now seeing in his mind’s eye the father running beyond the platform’s end on stony ground, on straggling grass,/ outdistanced, and outdistanced further still.

Read The Whole Review Here 

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Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Sundress Publications

 Donna Vorreyer

Review of Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling
Buffalo: Blazevox Books, 2015. 54 pp. $12, paper.

Failure is a perception that is essentially personal. One person's failure can be another's achievement, and failure implies blame, that there is something or someone faulty that did not result in a desired outcome. Lyric is a word that implies emotionally-charged language. Put the two together, and Failure Lyric is the result, a fractured and blistering portrayal of a broken relationship. 

The book tells the non-linear "story" of a failed relationship, one that seems doomed and distant from its inception. The speaker is never at ease, even at the very beginning. In the poem [First Failures], the speaker relates this story: 

"When we met, by a silver lake at the end of summer, I knew you were looking over my
shoulder, trying to find the woman who would fall in love with you."
"You waited and waited, but the woman never arrived. I just sat there next to the
refreshments, my best dress already out of fashion."

All the poem titles in the book are bracketed, which fittingly mimics the presentation of the speaker as an observer in this narrative, an afterthought to the siginificant other more than a presence. The book opens with an erasure called [Preface], which starts with the line "The story can't begin," telling the reader from the start that this story will not unravel in a way that we expect. 

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Photos on flickr