Dennis Etzel Jr.

Dennis Etzel Jr. (Poetry, Hybrid) | Topeka, KS

Booking Fee:

Negotiable (Travel, Pass the Hat)

Will Travel:




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), and a full-length poetic memoir My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was a Best Book of Poetry from 2015. 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.


My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVox, 2015)
My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVox, 2015)


My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus, 2015)
My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus, 2015)
The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications, 2013)
The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications, 2013)

Press & Reviews

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

Dennis Etzel, Jr.’s My Secret Wars of 1984 documents 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. 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—this book 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)

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. 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)

Love what we do? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!