104 pp, softcover, poetry
ISBN 978-0-9846568-0-6 (paper)
Cover Art: Diwas Sherchan
Reading Unexpected Shiny Things with a group? Classrooms, reading groups, & community reads may want to start with discussion questions written by the author and editors of Cowfeather Press.
In his second, full-length collection, poems of innocence and experience take readers from the schoolyard to the trout stream, from birth to death. Dethlefsen’s familiar, folksy voice acquires new depth and darkness.
As Max Garland notes, “there’s clarity that’s not to be confused with naiveté or simplicity.” Dethlefsen chooses to speak in a plain voice that makes room for the lyrical in these poems, using a common vocabulary and an understated tone of voice. While his previous collections have hinted at darker tints to life, this book allows the darkness its due, paying attention to death, to loss, to grief, and to anger. The people in this book, including the poet/speaker, are conflicted and multi-dimensional: failing, trying again, and, in the meantime, loving as best they can.
W.E. Butts praises the balance of the “elliptical, conversational, playful, and serious,” in Dethlefsen’s poems. The shifts in voice, using song, pun, and rhyme by turn, bring the reader closer to the heart of the book and then playfully, skittishly, evade and deflect the attention. It is by what he leaves out, as much as what he says, that Dethlefsen expresses the inexpressible.
The terms which spring to mind on reading Bruce Dethlefsen’s poems, tenderness, kindness, gentleness, aren’t words we’re used to hearing in relation to contemporary poetry. These poems have a wide scope and a lot of give. They’re tough enough to admit how fragile they—and we—are. And they whisper whatever you are feeling, whatever you are going through, you are not alone. You are not alone. Together, these poems lead us to, in Garland’s words, “a redemptive vision of the world around us.”
Audio & Video
(more video available at the Verse Wisconsin YouTube Channel)
Milk from Sleepy Cows
Bruce Dethlefsen was appointed Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2011 and 2012. He has published two poetry chapbooks, A Decent Reed (Tamafyr Mountain Press, 1999) and Something Near the Dance Floor (Marsh River Editions, 2003) for which he won the Posner Book-length Poetry Award Honorable Mention from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Breather (Fireweed Press, 2009), his full-length poetry book, received an Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2003 and 2009. Small Talk was published by Little Eagle Press in 2014. Retired, Bruce lives in Westfield, Wisconsin.
It is my very good fortune to have been chosen Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2011-2012. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission and the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, I travel across the state speaking and working with public libraries, schools, and writers’ groups to promote the wonderful poets and poetry of Wisconsin.
In my second book, Unexpected Shiny Things, published by Cowfeather Press, I’ve attempted to examine my relationship to the natural world, people and places, and come to grips somehow with the death of my younger son.
“Over the years I’ve learned two things that help me in my writing. If a novel is winter and a short story is a snow storm, then a poem is a snowball, squeezed in bare hands. And, it’s the sounds in the words the poet chooses which make the difference between merely taping the poem together and nailing it.
I write every day and try my best to pay attention.
Reviews of Unexpected Shiny Things
“The poet gives us a hearty dose of loss but he does it in a way that is not the least bit depressing. There are moments of laugh-out-loud humor, enduring love, and sweet eroticism. The ability to acknowledge—and celebrate— both the darkness and the lightness of our earthly existence marks Dethlefsen’s vision. From free verse to subtle internal rhyme and rhythm structures to flat-out, endline rhyme, the poet gives us a diverse array of containers to hold these two ever chafing emotions: joy and sorrow.”—Lisa Vihos, Main Street Rag
“It’s impossible to read his work without seeing the humble things in one’s environs with fresh eyes…. As the days grow short and the nights grow cold, Unexpected Shiny Things is a boon companion, making the bleakness of the weather seem understatedly majestic rather than just freezing.” 77 Square
“No Wisconsin library should be without a copy of Unexpected Shiny Things as a core part of their poetry collection.” MBR
“Whenever I read Bruce Dethlefsen’s poetry, I am ready for a tour de force that will both entertain and make me look at the world in a different, more probing way.” Ed Bennett, Quill & Parchment