My Secret Wars of 1984
In its entirety, My Secret Wars of 1984 is an alphabetized 366-sentence conceptual poetry-memoir collage, using texts from the year 1984 (Lyn Hejinian, Ronald Johnson, bell hooks, Marvel Comics, Dungeons & Dragons, President Reagan, etc.) with sentences of my own—within the context of political and personal struggles of that time (my mother coming out in the midst of living in a conservative neighborhood, the threat of nuclear war, the recession, etc.).
From BlazeVOX Books! Please support Small Press Distribution by ordering your copy here.
Kansas City Star's Top Ten in Poetry for 2015
One of seven books to read this fall and winter (2015)
The Volta Blog Book Review
Acknowledgements for My Secret Wars of 1984
A finalist of the 2012 1913 Press First Book Award, chosen by Rae Armantrout
A finalist of the 2013 SpringGun Press Open Manuscript
A semi-finalist of the 2013 Subito Press Poetry Contest
Poems have appeared in:
3:AM Dec 2011
1913: A Journal of Forms #6
BlazeVOX Winter 2012
DIAGRAM #12.4, 2012
Flint Hills Review 2011
Fact-Simile #8 2012
Horse Less Review #16 Winter 2014
The Laurel Review #46.2 Summer 2013
Posit #3, Fall 2014
Rethink Topeka 2012 Chapbook
SpringGun Journal #9 2014
Tarpaulin Sky August 2013
My Secret Wars of 1984 concentrates on events that occurred in 1984. Whether you were alive to remember 1984 or not, how effective are the borrowed texts and events throughout the book in recreating that time?
How does the history of 1984 reflect what is happening now, found in My Secret Wars of 1984?
What kind of themes do you see in My Secret Wars of 1984? Maybe examine a few chosen poems to explore possible themes?
How do the placements of different sentences next to each other create tension? How do they create unification or flow?
What other books remind you of My Secret Wars of 1984? In what ways?
What kind of voice does the overall tone, style, etc. reflect?
How is My Secret Wars of 1984 an example of plurality?
Who would you recommend My Secret Wars of 1984 to? Why?
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)