Monday, November 25, 2013

About Sum Poems

Q: Did you feel that it was cathartic to write? As I finished it, I wondered if you were coming to terms with your childhood in a way that will let you focus on your boys' childhood next.

Me: Yes--it was the most difficult to write, too. These are poems I've tried to write for more than two decades, and I'm glad Joe Harrington made me make a choice to do so for my MFA thesis. "I wondered if you were coming to terms with your childhood in a way that will let you focus on your boys' childhood next." Exactly! I decided to get back in touch with my father after I was going to be a father myself. I knew I needed to do that. Those last poems were written two years ago, post-MFA, as I like poetry that tries to "figure out something" that can't be said.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

1913 Press Fundraiser

As 1913 Press has its fundraiser going, they recently posted why one should contribute. I appreciate the list as is as well:

-because poetry/art/language matters
-because small publishers take risks on putting out books that we care about, regardless of a narrow vision of “marketability”
-because value is not quantifiable
-because it’s important to acknowledge something as seemingly insignificant and quantifiable as “cost” in publishing
-because collectively, small presses like 1913 have changed the literary landscape over the past 10-15 years, from one that was closed to emerging & wild writers, to one that is open, inclusive, unofficial, and decentered
-because no matter how you feel about the notion of “glut” in contemporary publishing, more good work out there is better than less good work out there
-because there is so much good out there
-because small press publishers like 1913 put their own money, time, and energies into our projects simply because we believe in them
-because so many individuals named & unnamed put their own hard-won monies into every project we’ve ever put out
-because poets work for free
-because we as poets/writers/artists/readers/community-members are grateful...

If you wished:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blurbs for The Sum of Two Mothers

Sometimes the most complicated stories of our lives can be put into the shortest of forms. In this small book of poems Dennis Etzel Jr. recounts a fragmented chronology from his childhood to his fatherhood. Living their lives with love and integrity, Etzel's two mothers raised him together despite the status quo resistance they daily faced in Topeka, KS. Now the father of sons, Etzel's poems draw as much from his own memories as they do from the larger social context of marriage equality — and in bridging that gap between the personal and the political with lyrical grace and political conviction, Sum of Two Mothers is a riveting little book that is as much about growing up with two mothers, as it is about becoming a father who is raising his sons with a more inclusive — but equally protected — model of the world.  
—Kristin Prevallet, I Afterlife, Essay in Mourning Time

I love this book, and I wanted to say that first, “in danger / of being / engendered”.  These are the beautiful and percipient poems Minnie Bruce Pratt’s son could have written if the cops hadn’t ripped him from the arms of his two mothers.  Crime Against Nature, meet The Sum of Two Mothers, it’s time we all meet up over here where Dennis Etzel Jr. is making the magic happen for us!  You will hear in him with me the voice of a poet we have been waiting to hear, and glad we finally found him!
—CA Conrad, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics

There is always the kid who refuses to dissect the dead pig in science class. Or the kid who “liberates” the frogs from their glass cubes to the chagrin of the teacher and the glee of the students. And then there is Dennis Etzel Jr., who gives the command, “make shining rescues” while acknowledging the impossibility of this act. Yet, any color is possible in the light these poems throw. An orange that only exists in the kiss between two mothers. The color of witnessing. The color of sliding out of childhood into snowy legalities. Etzel is a color-sharpener. These poems will graze you with the glare of gendered equations. They measure the sum of omission. They are the prism’s reach and rescue.
 —Julia Cohen, Collateral Light

Rarely does a poem do as much in as few words as Dennis Etzel Jr.’s Sum of Two Mothers. It is a complete mini-autobiography in verse — but one that leaves ample room for the reader’s imagination. The poem’s supple, continuous syntax, plain-spoken musicality, architectural lines, and ample white space deftly convey both what is said and experienced, as well as what is not said or talked about. Reading Dennis Etzel, Jr.’s work is like reading William Carlos Williams, if Williams had had Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas as mothers.
—Joseph Harrington, Things Come On: An Amneoir

Dennis Etzel Jr’s The Sum of Two Mothers wades open-wounded into the unfriendly waters of a society bent on strangle-holding natural love and motherhood into pat definitions: “she was a mother before I thought of her / as my ‘other mother,’ // or ‘another mother’ because ‘mother’ / for me is hard to define.” In tones questioning, unsure, and ultimately defiant, these poems gather together in representation of the complexity of familial love. The Sum of Two Mothers is an imperative story, and one that is cast in lines intuitive, melodic, and resonant.
Leah Sewell, Birth in Storm

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Tour

December 2013
December 3rd: Open-mic at Skivies, 7pm
December 4th: Washburn Bookstore Open House, 1-2:30pm
December 8th: Topeka SC Public Library Local Author Fair, 3-5pm

February 2014
February 7th, First Friday: The Eclective (NOTO), 5:30-8pm
February 26-March 1: AWP?

March 2014
March 10, 2014: ESU Reading with Kevin Rabas, 7pm

April 2014
April 4th, First Friday: Top City Poetry Crawl, 5:30-8pm

June 2014
June 21st at Aimee's, Lawrence, 5:30p

July 2014
Tuesday, July 15th in Fort Collins: Old Firehouse Books, with Sasha Steensen and Aby Kaupang, 7pm
Thursday, July 17th in Boulder: Innisfree Poetry Bookstore, 7pm
Saturday, July 19th in Denver: Leon Presents a Reading Series with TBA, 7pm

September 2013
Sept 19, 2014: The Writers Place, KC, with Leah Sewell and TBA, 7pm


The Raven - pend
Collective Art Gallery - First Friday? - pend

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sum of Two Mothers

With loving thanks to the mothers in my life: Susan & Sondra (familial), Margy (adoptive), and Carrie (spousal). With familial thanks to DeAnn and Tom, Carl, Sarah, Martha, Joy, Ron, and Luanne and Tom. With many thanks to Joe Harrington and Hadara Bar-Nadav for their mentorship, friendship, help with the poems that sparked this collection, and for their endless dedication to people. With grateful thanks to the editors who reeled in some of these poems: Julia Cohen, Bin Ramke, Jennifer A. Luebbers, Cate Lycurgus, Deborah Kim, and Geoffrey Gatza. With brotherly thanks to Kevin Rabas, for his letters and support, and for being like a real brother. With friendly thanks to some real friends: Ben Cartwright, Leslie Von Holten, Jennifer Pacioianu, Melanie Burdick, and Sarah Smarsh. With deepest thanks to the mentors who really continue mentoring: Tom Averill, Amy Fleury, Li-Young Lee, Elizabeth Dodd, Donna Potts, Susan Jackson-Rogers, and Laura Moriarty. With a poetic thanks to CA Conrad, Kristin Prevallet, Lyn Hejinian, Travis and JenMarie Macdonald, Amy King, and Sandra Simonds for keeping poetry real. With collegial thanks to Danny Wade, Sharon Sullivan, the Department of English, and everyone at Washburn University for their support—especially my students who keep me real. With a Topekan thanks to Leah Sewell, Tom Kennedy, Laura Burton, Matt Beneka, Sara O'Keeffe, the great people at PT's at College Hill, Juli's, the YWCA and its Center for Safety and Empowerment, seveneightfive, I DO, XYZ, NOTO, and the other people who keep Topeka real. With a Lawrencian thanks to Judy Roitman, Jim McCrary, Megan Kaminski, Billie Joe Harris, Brian Daldorph, Denise Low-Weso, and the other poets there who keep Lawrence real. With a literary thanks to the Woodley Staff, especially Larry and Linda McGurn, who keep books made in Kansas real. With a Kansan thanks to Julie Mulvihill, the board, and everyone at Kansas Humanities Council who help keep the humanities in Kansas alive and real. With ecstatic thanks to Ariana Den Bleyker for taking in the manuscript, and for all of the work she does in building real poetic communities. With warmest thanks to you, for real.