My Grunge of 1991
Coming soon from BlazeVOX Books!
Dennis Etzel Jr.'s precise prose poetry examines injustice, Star Trek, George Bush's oft-ridiculous internal monologue, and a vague, nebulous past. Didacticism is just another device in My Grunge of 1991, one that makes technical yet poetic points about feminism and the nature of utopia. Etzel also challenges the idea of pure art, instead using his meanders to promote a utopia to be striven for. But "Does the Reader know the Watcher is watching him read as he reads about the Watcher?" Tune in to accompany Etzel as he interrogates our surveillance state.
--Amy King, The Missing Museum
Like the smart, My Secret Wars of 1984, Dennis Etzel Jr.'s My Grunge of 1991 sings with intensity. Collaging pop culture, feminist scholarship, and politics from that year, these prose poems question. Etzel asks, You doubt my honor as a warrior? and Who made my home a McHome? If in Fast-Food Sonnets, Etzel explores the meaning of customer service work, here Etzel turns the focus to the ways culture works on the self. Reading this new collection is a lovely disorientating echo of dictions that transport. Like a Kansas tornado with its resonating swirl, readers of My Grunge of 1991 land among Happy Meals, Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, and Desert Storm coverage. In the muzak, grunge stars Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana voice and scream. With lines arranged alphabetically across 75 poems, My Grunge of 1991 offers a sound answer to Dana Gioia’s 1991 question, Can Poetry Matter? With a poet’s ear like Etzel, it can.
--Laura Madeline Wiseman, Through a Certain Forest
Within the poem, “a list of alphabetized semblances for keeping track of occurrences out of post-trauma,” the speaker negotiates a way between quotations. Even pre-9/11, “we [were] no longer safe,” so he cloaks himself in “Grunge music, comic books, and Star Trek.” Amidst the dystopia of the First Gulf War, Dennis Etzel, Jr. brilliantly imagines a utopia where “there are no boy or girl Happy Meal toys – only Hot Wheels or Barbie.” In other words, this absorbing prose-poem sequence is an inoculation against – and hope for – the present.
--Joseph Harrington, Of Some Sky
In My Grunge of 1991, the mix is all: the combo of high and low, public and private, your life & her life & theirs, all at once, an intersectionality of those bold prosperous times (for some) and the madness below and in between—of a Bush war, a Happy Meal land filled with “boy” and “girl” toys: Hotwheels, Barbies. Both clever and tender-hearted (and “woke”), this collection allows a steady gaze at what the early ‘90s and Dennis have wrought.
--Kevin Rabas, Songs for My Father, KS Poet Laureate, 2017-19.
Cover art by Staci Dawn Ogle