Friday, January 12, 2018


LINDA RODRIGUEZ, author of award-winning poetry and prose, publishes with Mammoth!
88 pages $16.00 ISBN Perfect-bound paper 978-1-939301-66-6  
Pre-order now for discount! $10.00 plus shipping PayPal or check. Kansas residents: Click this for tax. Others click here! Mail order: Mammoth Publications, 1916 Stratford Rd. Lawrence, KS 66044 $13 postpaid. Books available Feb. 1.

“I want to say so much about Rodriguez’s poetic gifts. What talent! The most accomplished poet of our generation. A poetic voice for our time.” ~Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima and Albuquerque

Click this link to Mammoth Publications website for further details.

Dark Sister: Poems gives voice to the living presence of Cherokee teachings and history, passed down through Linda Rodriguez’s family. Rodriguez, author of the exciting Cherokee detective series featuring  Skeet Bannion (St. Martin's/Minotaur Press), turns to family stories and memory for her third book of poetry. She testifies about the borderlands that still exist between Cherokee people and heirs of Andrew Jackson’s soldiers; between Americans and their British Isles forebears; and between the frontera of Mexico and southern plains states of the United States. She spares no quarter as she remembers history and its embodiment in the present. She tells compelling stories about the last Beloved Woman, Trickster, and other traditional figures with the sure hand of an oral storyteller and with the lyrical intensity of a skilled poet. In Dark Sister, the ageless Cherokee language and Spanish blend with English to explain the complexities of life as a mixed-blood woman in the 21st century. This accessible book appeals to adults and young adult audiences with family stories, love stories, just-so stories, and more. 
 For her previous books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Linda Rodriguez has received numerous recognitions, including the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence, the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, the 2011 and 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Awards, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Rodriguez has edited four anthologies, most recently The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, co-edited with Diane Glancy. Her poetry has appeared in many national and regional journals and on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac, The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress, and New Letters on the Air. Her award-winning Skeet Bannion novels, all from St. Martin's/Minotaur, are: Every Broken Trust, Every Hidden Fear, and Every Last Secret, which won the 2011 St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, featured by Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and a finalist for the International Latino Book Award.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Letters publishes Denise Low's review of Lombardo's Sappho

I appreciate the elegant journal New Letter's publication of my review of Stanley Lombardo’s
translation Sappho: Complete Poems and Fragments (Hackett) for the new issue of New Letters. Here is a brief excerpt:
"Lombardo deliberately composes pages of the least complete fragments to preserve placements of text. This creates a field of inverse lacuna, as the few remaining words appear within the larger gaps of loss. This is a collage effect. Susan Howe’s 2017 book Debths has a similar, deliberate effect. She composes pages of white space and text clippings, some lines smudged beyond recognition. She explains the bricolage sections: 'Our eyes see what is outside in the landscape in the form of words on paper but inside, a slash or mark wells up from a deeper place where music before counting hails from' (22)." The complete text of the review is a PDF on the New Letters website.  New Letters v. 84, no. 1 (2017-18): 131-4.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Eric McHenry Wins Award from TLS

Eric McHenry Wins The Mick Imlah Poetry Prize 
Congratulations to Washburn professor and 5th Kansas Poet Laureate Eric McHenry, who is second-place-tie winner of the Mick Imlah Poetry Prize of the Times Literary Supplement. The prize is named after the former TLS poetry editor Imlah. TLS informs readers that “almost 4,000 poems” were entered in the contest. Judges were Alan Jenkins, A. E. Stallings and Andrew Motion. Katherine Lewis won first place, and Emily Yaremchuk shares the 2nd place award with McHenry. Jenkins notes of “Picking a Prophet” by McHenry: “[its] reasonable tone and unostentatious rhymes convey a sophisticated, almost offhand authority.” Third prize winner is Allen Braden. Jenkins supports the idea of poetry contests: “Art is not a competition; but a competition may encourage art, and reward it.” To read further details and read the winning poems, follow this link.

Eric McHenry grew up in Topeka, Kansas and earned degrees from Beloit College and Boston University. His first book of poems, Potscrubber Lullabies (Waywiser, 2006), won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and in 2010 Poetry Northwest awarded him the Theodore Roethke Prize. He is a contributing editor of Columbia magazine and has written about poetry for the New York Times Book Review, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and Slate. He lives in Topeka with his wife, Sonja, and their two children, Evan and Sage, and teaches creative writing at Washburn University. In 2015 he was appointed Poet Laureate of Kansas. Audio files of two of his poems from the recent Odd Evening (2016, Waywiser) is at this link:  

See my comments about McHenry on a previous blog:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Kevin Rabas Curates Ks. Poetry for PoetryBay

Kevin Rabas, Poet Laureate of Kansas, assisted by Michael Pelletier, has curated Kansas poems for the
online magazine PoetryBay, connected with Long Island Quarterly. The special section is "A Snapshot of Kansas Poetry." The introduction to the project, “The News, Not Just from Kansas But All the World,” by Pelletier, begins with a quotation from my similar print project of almost 40 years ago: 
      “’Biologists have a technique of plotting a given amount of land and recording every member of a species within it during a specific length of time,’ begins Denise Low’s preface to 30 Kansas Poets (1979). She continues, calling that collection of poems ‘more a record of what is occurring within the perimeters of the state … than an attempt to define or categorize ‘Kansas’ poetry.’ We follow Low here in offering a small sample — perhaps more akin to a snapshot than a record — of contemporary Kansas poetry.
     “As with Low’s collection, it was not possible to include the work of every member of the species writing in Kansas today, though Low herself, a former Poet Laureate of Kansas, is included. Two other former Poets Laureate, as well as the current Poet Laureate, are also represented.”
 The poets are: Brian Daldorph, Adam Jameson J.T. Knoll, Denise Low, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Al Ortolani, Jared Schmitz, Joe Toth, Wyatt Townley, M.R. Pelletier, and Kevin Rabas.  These include Rabas, 3 former Kansas poets laureate (Low, Mirriam-Goldberg, Townley), a librarian, students, teachers of creative writing, and an electric company employee.
Here is one of my own selections from “A Snapshot of Kansas Poetry.” It is from my forthcoming collection
Shadow Light, which has won the 2018 Red Mountain Press Editor’s Choice Award:
Each tree shuffles a deck of cards
one suit each
     gingkoes for hearts
     maples for clubs.
My mother gambles for a last child.
One spring day I am born.
     Oak leaves are broken diamonds.
I turn ten yours old.
     I press scarlet leaves in wax paper
            flatten them with a hot iron.
I turn sixty.      
Each sawtooth
leaf edge
     Hackberries are spades.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Richard Robbins reads from new book Oct. 26, Raven Bookstore, Lawrence KS

Richard Robbins will read from his new book Body Turn to Rain: New & Selected Poems (Lynx House Press) at the upcoming Big Tent Reading Series, with Nino Cipri and Celeste Gainey--7 pm, 7th & Mass. Robbins's poems combine narrative with images to create surprise, as in this poem "Old Country Portraits." It appears to be a still life, suggesting a Vermeer portrait, a “lost sister” performing a trick on the family by snapping away the table cloth. The final trickery is the subtle interplay between the living and the dead.
Old Country Portraits by Richard Robbins © 2017
My lost sister used to try the trick
with the tablecloth, waiting until
the wine had been poured, the gravy boat filled,
before snapping the linen her way

smug as a matador, staring down
silver and crystal that would dare move,
paying no mind to the ancestor gloom
gliding across the wallpaper like clouds

of a disapproving front—no hutch
or bureau spared, no lost sister sure
the trick would work this time, all those she loved
in another room, nibbling saltines,

or in the kitchen plating the last
of the roast beef. How amazed they would be
to be called to the mahogany room
for supper, to find something missing,

something beautiful, finally, they could
never explain, the wine twittering
in its half-globes, candles aflutter, each
thing in its place, or so it seemed then,

even though their lives had changed for good.

Richard Robbins was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Southern California and Montana. He studied as an undergraduate with Glover Davis and Carolyn Forché at San Diego State University and as a graduate student with Richard Hugo, Madeline DeFrees, Tess Gallagher, and William Pitt Root at the University of Montana. He has published five full-length books: The Invisible Wedding was published in 1984 by the University of Missouri Press as part of its Breakthrough Series, Famous Persons We Have Known in 2000 by Eastern Washington University Press, and The Untested Hand in 2008 by The Backwaters Press. Radioactive City won the Bellday Prize and was published in 2009 by Bellday Books. Other Americas was released in 2010 by Blueroad Press. His Body Turn to Rain: New & Selected Poems is new in 2017.  Over the years, he's received awards and fellowships from The Loft, the McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America. From 1986-2014, Robbins directed the Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University Mankato, where he continues to direct the creative writing program. In 2006, he was awarded the Kay Sexton Award for long-standing dedication and outstanding work in fostering books, reading and literary activity in Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Robert Day Celebrates 40th anniversary of The Last Cattle Drive

The Salina Public Library sponsored a celebration of Robert Day's seminal novel with a community reading of the book, author visit, dinner, movies, and a panel discussion Sept. 17, 2017, that included Fred Whitehead, Mary O'Connell, Leo Oliva, Robert Day, and myself. Here are my remarks. 

I have participated in formal and informal discussion of Robert Day’s Last Cattle Drive— in libraries (the Kansas Humanities Council TALK program), in prisons, in coffee shops, and around kitchen tables. I have lived with the book almost from its first publication. Ed Ruhe, the legendary Kansas University professor, introduced me to Day, Fred Whitehead, and Ward Sullivan—the model for Spangler—when I was in graduate school.
I remember Ruhe’s dining room table piled with books, with only small spaces left for plates. The cast was like a novel’s playbill. I remember being mesmerized as Robert Day shook my hand before dinner and then announced I was just a few handshakes away from Tolstoy. He recounted the lineage back to Nabokov, and then Tolstoy. It was magic.
Then Bob did what he does best, after a few magic tricks. He told stories into the night. I was enchanted. I read The Last Cattle Drive at that time.
I grew up in Emporia at the edge of the Flint Hills, cattle country. My relatives were involved in
ranching, and many neighbors. I went to the sales barn on Friday nights to watch auctions of livestock. I rode horses with friends. I enjoyed the half-tamed, unfenced yards that edged into “vacant lots” and back. I was no expert on details of ranching, but I knew the characters and general setting. Opal was my mother. Jed was either of my grandfathers. Spangler resembled a composite of crusty old fellas I lived around, including, say, William Lindsay White (son of William Allen) and my music teacher Professor Leopold Liegl. At KU, I knew the type of tenderfoot Leo represents. How I relished this book, about my world and not John Updike’s or J.D. Salinger’s world of upper-class New England angst.
The Last Cattle Drive is one of the few mainstream-published books that shows sentient beings in grasslands cattle country, in 1977. Just a handful of names are in this category, Willa Cather’s My Antonia was 1918, then there is a gap until William Stafford’s National Book Award-winning Traveling through the Dark, poems, in 1963. Wright Morris published Plains Song in 1980. Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series was 1985.Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses was 1992, Kent Haruf’s Plainsong was 1999, and in 2002, Annie Proulx published That Old Ace in the Hole. In film, Urban Cowboy appeared in 1980 and City Slickers in 1991—and its resemblance to The Last Cattle Drive, well, that is another story. Unforgiven, the definitive revisionist cowboy flick, was 1992. So, in 1977, Last Cattle Drive was the first novel to show contemporary 20th century life since Willa Cather.
A major accomplishment of The Last Cattle Drive is its update of the cowboy story. This is a classic United States story, as unique as jazz. The loner hero, the vagaries of weather and critters, the challenges of the people—all these are present.
Day roots his novel in storytelling, with love of his characters’ idiosyncrasies. No one is Garrison Keillor average. Leo tries, but he falls in with the stronger characters. Authenticity triumphs over the superficial. Most of all, the cowboy in the story, Jed, leaves a legacy that will live on, even after he dies in the end. People like Bob Day and some present company still push books aside to tell stories at table. New generations will continue this tradition.
Another note—the author Robert Day is very well educated. I remember as a young writer listening to him quote Rousseau, Jane Austen, and Terry Southern. The Last Cattle Drive borrows from Huckleberry Finn, Andy Adams’ fictional Log of a Cowboy (1903), historic documents, and pulp westerns. It is a sophisticated piece of writing that foretells the mashups and metafictions that are common today. He relishes blending high and low cultures in this well-wrought book.

This is a book that has reflection, wisdom, action, payoff, and warm characters. It made me feel more secure in my identity as a grasslands person when I first read it, and it influenced me as a writer tremendously. I have kept my region foremost in sight, and I have tried to maintain authenticity. I remember when Bob spoke to a Washburn University class decades ago and said he did not follow up the Last Cattle Drive with a sequel, because his writing did not take him that direction. He has remained true to his stories above all. That is a feat of heroic stature, worthy of Jed and all the cowboy ancestors. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Dennis Etzel is one of the most exuberant poets I know. His readings are enhanced by his genuine love of
 words/poetry/just causes/people. His partnership with wife Carrie as they raise 5 young sons is admirable. His awareness as a man raised by two lesbian mothers carries over into his life and his writings. He is an admirable human being, which is one aspect of him; he is also an admirable poet. Yes, he is a friend, so qualify my review in those terms.

His new book from Spartan Press is This Removed Utopia: Poems.  Yes, that is John Brown on the cover, the odd iconic activist saint of Kansas, from the state capitol building's murals by John Stuart Curry. This panel is entitled Tragic Prelude, apt for the book. Etzel has a fluid, unpretentious style that moves, engages the reader, and ess-turns into unexpected alleyways and cupolas. Domestic moments transform into regional awareness into history into rage against corporate machines. The book has six poems, including the long poem “A Short History of Topeka,” which includes this section, and the “Sam” is governor and former senator Sam Brownback:
Even Topeka has the pleasure of lawn and trees
outside of the mall’s obvious entrances, a carefree
winking after paid-off early retirements
help corporations in they syrupy blurs. Accept
that speed walking which hammers gerunds
into our language, promising the assertive
round of elegies. How does the need to claim
on your right feel to Kansas politics, the words
you use, your cushioned lips, those kisses
you tell? Do I need to mention Sam
in the midst of this ruin built decades ago?
Let the sun come through the dome window,
Let the doves of love fly above that window,
let the window resign to the floor, let hammers
be heard, unseen for comfort to our particles.

For a signed copy of This Removed Utopia, please use this link. Shipping and taxes included.

​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. 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). He has two chapbooks, The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013) and My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus Press 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. Please feel free to connect with him at

Photo of Dennis Etzel at the Raven Bookstore by Denise Low

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Heartland Poetry of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity: RHIANNON ROSS presents "More Ways"

I'm honored to be guest editor of the collective project for the Kansas poetry website Heartland Poetry of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity, founded by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. I've curated poems by Debbie Theiss  (forthcoming) and Jemshed Kahn (preceding), and now for this 3-week period, Rhiannon Ross. Visit the website for Kahn's poem, and savor Ross's offering. Theiss is in the batter's box. Stay tuned for more guest editors' selections!

There are more ways to terrorize
than stack bricks on the border higher than Denali.
More sinister ways to banish.
Darth Vader lurks on the screen
and with a flourish of a golden pen
rewrites the narratives of children’s lives.
Lizet, whose name means “beauty” and sounds like love,
composes words that weep her Mamá’s tears,
confesses worries desperate as packed suitcases
waiting by the front door.
“Mamá says if she goes, I go with her.”

Rhiannon Ross teaches youth poetry workshops for In Our Own Words, a Missouri Arts Council-funded program. She serves on the Riverfront Reading Series committee, the Jump Start Art KC board, and as a regional co-coordinator for Poetry Out Loud. She received a 2012 Rocket Grant for community project Vox Narro.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mammoth Publishes Navajo author Diane Willie's SHARP ROCKS, fiction chapbook

These short stories collect the contemporary and mythic experiences of a young woman seeking identity in the American Southwest. Diane Willie, enrolled Dine (Navajo), moves among cultures, geographies, and time frames to renew stories of the Navajo Long Walk, La Llorona, and contemporary women who survive with courage and dignity. From "Garcia," a short story in Sharp Rocks:
"Sadie Garcia saw two shadows near the river, one covered in tattered white wrap and the other slumped against a tree. La Llorona wailed in the distance waiting for the two shadows to come to her. The crickets were silent, and the frogs hummed a death song, a song that extended itself to Sadie Garcia’s heart.
        "Sadie Garcia rolled up her sleeves and bargained with La Llorona for her little sister’s life. Countless moon hours passed while two women haggled. In the end, La Llorona accepted a half bag of coffee grounds and a whole bag of sugar. Afterwards, the owl screeched resolution. Coyote and La Llorona sat near the Rio Grande sipping coffee. "

Diane Willie is an instructor at the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She graduated from Haskell Indian Nations University with an Associates degree and the University of Kansas with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. She has pursued graduate studies in Creative Writing and Education. She is from the Navajo tribe of New Mexico. Her favorite authors are Leslie Marmon Silko and Louise Erdrich.
“Diane Willie’s original voice adds depth to 21st century stories of the American Southwest. Her mythical tales draw upon Navajo, Pueblo, Spanish, and Anglo histories to create her own mélange.  Always, the Native viewpoint structures Willie’s narratives. Read these as rituals of healing. The final message is one of hope, esperanza.”    Denise Low, former Kansas Poet Laureate

$10.00, shipping included. ISBN 978-1-939301-68-0, Staple-bound paper, 5.5” X 8.5” 24 pages.  + Kansas tax. Discounts for multiple copies. Order: or 1916 Stratford Rd. Lawrence KS 66044

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Kim Shuck is 7th Poet Laureate of San Francisco!

Congratulations to Kim Shuck, author of Smuggling Cherokee: Poems, who is 7th San Francisco Poet Laureate! She writes Tsi-Tsu (Rabbit) narratives and does beadwork, basketry, Cherokee language, and more. From the Hanksville website: “As a poet Kim has read her work around the United States. In late summer and fall of 2005 she toured through Jordan with a group of poets from many countries in the interest of peace and communication. Shuck has read her work on her local radio. She is co-curator of the Spoken Word Series of the Native American Cultural Center. Kim sat for a time on the board of directors for California Poets in the Schools. As a visual artist Kim's work has been shown both in and out of the United States, including shows at the National Museum of Taiwan in Taipei and the Art, Women, California Show at the San Jose Art Museum. She has consulted with museums and galleries around California on the subject of Native artwork. Kim has taught in Elementary Schools, at San Francisco State University and has lectured widely on the subjects of math, art and Native American issues. She has been a teacher since, in 3rd grade, she taught fellow classmates a series of short lessons in crochet.”
is multi-talented, with word arts,

Her Wiki-biography: “Kim Shuck: Cherokee poet, author, and artist. Kim Shuck is a Native-American poet, author, and bead work artist who draws from Southeastern Native American culture and tradition as well as contemporary urban Indian life. She was born in San Francisco, California and is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She earned a B.A. in Art (1994), and M.F.A. in Textiles (1998) from San Francisco State University. She has taught American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and was an artist in residence at the De Young Museum in June 2010 with Michael Horse.”

Awards include:
2008 KQED Local Hero Award, American Indian Heritage Month
2007 Smuggling Cherokee, Poetry Foundation bestseller list (March)
2006 Smuggling Cherokee, SPD Books bestseller list (March)
2005 Mentor of the Year Award Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers
2005 Native Writers of the Americas First Book, Diane Decorah Award
2004 Mary Tallmountain Award

Books, Author:
2014 Sidewalk Ndn, solo chapbook of poetry, FootHills Publishing
2014 Clouds Running In, solo book of poetry, Taurean Horn Press ISBN 978-0931552168
2013 Rabbit Stories, vignette fiction, Poetic Matrix Press ISBN 978-0985288389
2005 Smuggling Cherokee, solo volume of poems, Greenfield Review Press ISBN 978-0878861460

Books, Editor:
2010 “Rabbit and Rose”, online journal, editor, online publication (
2007 Oakland Out Loud, (Ed.) anthology, co-editor, Jukebox Press ISBN 0932693172
2006 Words Upon the Waters, (Ed.) anthology, assistant editor, Jukebox Press 2006