Map of Kansas Literature

[graphic] dot Return to Topeka
[graphic] dot Return to KANSAS MAP

Etzel Map of Kansas Literature

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



        Dennis Etzel Jr.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.

He has two chapbooks, The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013) and My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus Press 2015). My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. Fast-Food Sonnets (Coal City Review Press 2016) is a 2017 Kansas Notables Book selected by the State of Kansas Library.  This Removed Utopia (Spartan Press 2017) was published as part of the Kaw Valley Poetry Series. My Grunge of 1991 is forthcoming (BlazeVOX 2017).

His work has 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 leads poetry workshops in various Kansas spaces. Please feel free to connect with him at his website.

Return to Top of Page
Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  
  Return to Top of Page
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.

Return to Top of Page

notes for My Secret Wars of 1984


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.


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


Sentence 2 and 4: Hejinian

Sentence 5: Song by Yes.


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

Return to Top of Page

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

Return to Top of Page