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Coal City

cover art for Fast Food Sonnets: poems by Dennis Etzel Jr

Fast Food Sonnets: Poems

Dennis Etzel Jr. 2016.

A Kansas Notable Book for 2017

6x9. $10.

“Fast-Food Sonnets. At first this oxymoronic title stymied me, but Dennis Etzel, Jr’s mix of pop culture and high Italian Renaissance is spot on. Etzel’s verse is not strict sonnets, but each packs maximum emotion into spare lines. He tells about poverty-level coming of age through initiation at the local hamburger joint. A manager tells a new employee “to wear her hair up, be ready to serve.” This ending line is a chilling indictment of the class system, gender roles, and servitude. This book is an important satire for the 21st century. It also is a perfect blend of drama and passion.”
–Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09 and author of Mélange Block

“Oh, how I wish Dennis Etzel Jr.’s Fast-Food Sonnets would have been issued to me along with my blue uniform and visor back when I, too, was in the McArmy. I might have been aware of the beauty and breaking all around me as I fried and scooped and salted. But what a pleasure, so many years later, to remember life on that side of the counter. For anyone who has ever been there, or for anyone in danger of forgetting that a person in a uniform is a person, Etzel’s poems are compassionate and thoughtful reminders. Plus he cracks me up.”
–Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone

“In these well-crafted poems, Dennis Etzel, Jr. lays bare the truths known by those who’ve labored in the fast-food industry. He deftly illustrates what tolls the turbo delivery of food exacts from young people— for whom it is often first employment. Those smiling faces, who query “May I help you,” hold back the question “Will you help me?” Each poem leaves the reader more aware that the cost of fast-food does not include what has been paid in misery.”
–Annette Billings, Descants for a Daughter

“Teen Dennis turns the microscope on working a Fast Food Job: its absurdities, its drudgeries, its injustices. In doing so he reveals something at the heart of our Supersize culture: a loss of heart, a loss of connection with what we eat. Unofficial referee of this world, the poet reveals what’s wrong, what must change, and like cutting a hole in a saguaro, Dennis cuts into the prickly trauma of his teen, fast-food-worker life, and brings forth water, spirit, healing.”
–Kevin Rabas, Songs for My Father