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Dennis Etzel, Kansas Author

Dennis Etzel Jr.

Gimmie Your Lunch Money: Heartland Poets Speak out against Bullies book cover

No Fail Poetry Writing book cover

Fast Food Sonnets book cover

Robinson Middle Slam book cover

My Secret Wars of 1984 book cover

Sum of Two Mothers Cover


 

Biography  
          

        Dennis Etzel Jr. was born, raised in, and never left Topeka, Kansas.  He teaches English at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers was released in 2013, and his work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX,  Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others.

He earned B.A. degrees in Computer Systems (1999) and English (2004) from Washburn University, an M.A. in English literature/creative writing and Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Kansas State University (2006), and an M.F.A. degree in creative writing from The University of Kansas (2010).

He is a TALK Scholar and Speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA of Topeka and Midland Hospice.

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  
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Writing Samples  
 

---from My Secret Wars of 1984
  Closes. Cold wars everywhere. Comic books continued my dialogue with language as I sought my story within costumes. Coming out of a bad marriage, my mother comes out. Crackling up / like a wall of prairie fire / in a somersault silver / to climb blank air. Cruel summer. Curled over for the walk back home, my pages touch the landscape until, hooked by the wind, they detach from my staples.
 
Dancing in the dark. Daydreams of fighting supervillains surround while unsure of those around me. Delay: The victim automatically loses initiative for the next round. Destruction is widespread throughout the city, with Gage Park in Central Topeka especially hard hit. Do they know it's Christmas? Doctor, doctor. Dune. Dungeon adventures are common, and a few short wilderness journeys usually occur.
 
One feels panicky, closed in. One last middle school field trip to Lake Shawnee, as Van Halen's 1984 plays on a boombox. Or, rather, what is there in language itself that compels and implements the rejection of closure? Our yellow house could not front against the red of the neighborhood. Over here is word, over there is thing at which word is shooting amiable love-arrows. Owner of a lonely heart. Pac-Man prepared me for my run home, zigzag blocks, ghosts after me.

Poetry becomes a positive doublethink, taking in these contradictions. Poets from Kansas mythologize Kansas. Pride in the name of love. Prince plays a struggle on his guitar, out of poverty, as the movie mirrors. Punching: Only a fist Strike can cause a knockout. Purple rain.


---from This Removed Utopia

This forest sanctuary
slides underfoot, spreads
and twirls vines and roots
against the darkness
with episodes of depression,
nausea, forgetfulness.
Sometimes someone asks
for a book of one hundred
most beloved poems, or for
a one-night stand, while
I realize I was meant
for building garden plots,
that I’m the kind that cruises
streets for not the road, but
the ruins, houses that housed
those who hated
my mothers, lesbians living
in the neighborhood, green
sprouting up to paint itself
an opera’s last act, purple
hints spiking that Kansas City
Jazz, and whatever swing
I jumped out of landed me
in Roman coliseums, amusements
to dog walkers who chose
not to scoop up poop. Thanks,
I forgot all about that, as the hail
falls with cold rain, and if you
think me greedy or arrogant, I will
bake those chicken enchiladas
for the grandmothers inside you.

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Notes  
 

notes for My Secret Wars of 1984

[Closes-Curled]

Sentence 5: From “ARK 34, Spire on the Death of L.Z.” by Ronald Johnson. Used with permission from Peter O’Leary, literary executor.

Sentence 6: Song by Bananarama.

[Dancing-Dungeon]

Sentence 1: Song by Bruce Springsteen.

Sentence 3: From Dungeons and Dragons Companion Set: Volume One by Frank Mentzer, p3. Used with permission from Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

Sentence 4: From “About the March 18, 1984 Topeka ice storm,” on the National Weather Service website, by Mike Akulow and Larry Schultz. Public domain.

Sentence 6: Song by Thompson Twins.

Sentence 7: Film from 1984, David Lynch.

Sentence 8: Mentzer, p2

[One-Pac-Man]

Sentence 2 and 4: Hejinian

Sentence 5: Song by Yes.

[Poetry-Purple]

Sentence 1: Term from Orwell's 1984, to accept contradictory terms, like "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength." 

Sentence 3: Song by U2.

Sentence 5: Mentzer, p6

Sentence 6: Song title by Prince & The Revolution and film from 1984

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Links  
 

Dennis' Website
Topeka/Shawnee Co. Library (article)
Dennis' Blog
Washburn University Page
The Indianola Review (Interview)
Denise Low Postings (Interview)

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