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Wisconsin Poet Laureate Bruce Dethlefsen has a new book of poems coming out this fall, and he’s
working with new kid on the block Cowfeather Press. The book, titled Unexpected Shiny Things,
covers territory from the playgrounds of elementary school to the trout streams of Wisconsin,
birth to love to heartbreak, with a special focus on the tragic death of Dethlefsen’s son, Willi,
in 2010.

Wendy Vardaman, Cowfeather’s co-editor, explains, "Unexpected Shiny Things is the pilot project for
Cowfeather Press. It's an extension of the service that our magazine Verse Wisconsin offers, and we
hope to be able to publish more books in the future. Many of Wisconsin's poets deserve to be better
known, inside and outside of the state.” “We’re thrilled that Bruce took a chance with us,” adds
Cowfeather’s other half, Sarah Busse. “We’ve known him for years, and we’ve published his poems in
Verse Wisconsin. When we heard he was considering putting together a full-length collection, we saw
an opportunity to stretch into territory we’d been considering a while.” For his part, Dethlefsen says,
“I am grateful to work with Sarah and Wendy. Writers (and poets) themselves, they are dedicated
proponents of the arts in Wisconsin and poetry in particular.”

Advance Praise For Unexpected Shiny Things:

“Bruce Dethlefsen writes of the small moments and the grand events with tenderness
and wit, and an openness that invites the reader (any reader) in the first time around,
and yet rewards the careful reader each time after. There's clarity that's not to be
confused with naivete or simplicity, an intimate tone that lures us, that gets us on
the poet's wave-length, and then come the bright surprises, and slants of perception
and humor that accumulate poem by poem into a redemptive vision of the world around us."
–Max Garland, author of Hunger Wide as Heaven and The Postal Confessions

“Loud, quiet praise for the loud, quiet poems in Bruce Dethlefsen's collection
Unexpected Shiny Things. In five completely different sections, Dethlefsen leads
the reader on an often playful, often harrowing journey through memory, middle age,
childhood and grief. His timing and placement of both the individual words and the
poems themselves is masterful; he seems know just how much truth the reader is able
bear, so he somehow manages both to prepare us for what's coming, and then to comfort
us afterwards. Whether he is writing about the anguish of a child's tragic death, the
mystery and majesty of the natural world, or the agonies of 6th grade, Dethlefsen's
tone is ever tender and curious, and the reader is left with a heart stretched bigger
and an unwavering sense that the things of the world are indeed unexpectedly shiny, but
only when the right poet's hands have touched them."
–Lisa Starr, Poet Laureate of Rhode Island

“The stunning, stylistically diverse poems of Unexpected Shiny Things are at times
elliptical, conversational, playful, and serious, yet always earnest in their compassionate
inquiry of our daily human endeavors. With compelling rhythms of jazz-like riffs, Bruce
Dethlefsen explores the tragic loss of a son, the complexities of relationships, our place
in the natural world, and speaks for otherwise silenced voices. ‘You know sometimes though /
I think’ Dethlefsen writes in “Hummingbirds,” ‘I make the world go ‘round / simply by walking
on it / and pushing backwards just a little / with each deliberate step.’”
–W. E. Butts, New Hampshire Poet Laureate

“Bruce Dethlefsen’s newest collection takes its reader on an unforgettable poetic journey,
progressing from the nostalgic to the philosophical to the side-splittingly funny, with bonus
side-trips into emotional territory both erotic and deeply tender. We’re also provided with
some astonishing glimpses into the natural world, sometimes with reverence, as in ”ferns dripping
with golden coffee sunlight”—and sometimes without: “the sun scoots on its butt across the sky".”

“Most compelling of all, however, might be the book’s deeply moving fourth section— a small
gathering of understated verses written in response to the sudden death of the poet’s son.“

"Each poem in this remarkable book can, in fact, be read as a tribute to love in one of its many guises,
or to loss, or to the profundities and absurdities of life itself. They indelibly remind us, as
Dethlefsen perceptively puts it, to go slow / no wake / ease the boat / around each corner /
to a new bay.”
–Marilyn Taylor, author of Subject to Change and Going Wrong

About the Author:

Bruce Dethlefsen was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1948 and moved to Wisconsin in 1966. He is Wisconsin
Poet Laureate for 2011/2012, under the sponsorship of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.
Previous collections include two chapbooks, A Decent Reed (Tamafyr Mountain Press, 1999) and Something Near
the Dance Floor (Marsh River Editions, 2003). Breather (Fireweed Press, 2009), his first full-length book,
received an Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Twice-nominated
for the Pushcart Prize, Bruce’s poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and Your
Daily Poem, where he was Poet-of-the-Month. Bruce also performs original music with Bill Orth as Obvious Dog
on Cathryn Cofell’s CD, Lip. His son, Nathan, lives in West Salem, Wisconsin. His other son, Wilson, died in
a moped accident in June, 2010. A retired educator and public library director, Bruce lives with his partner
of twenty years, Sue Rose Allen, in Westfield, Wisconsin. He still believes the flying dreams are the best.
Learn about Bruce Dethlefsen at 

Contact Bruce Dethlefsen at:

Dethlefsen’s term as Poet Laureate covers the years 2011-2012. His special project is working with libraries
in Wisconsin communities large and small to establish reading series. “We look forward to partnering with Bruce,
libraries around the state, and reading groups. His poems are accessible to audiences unfamiliar with poetry,
but nuanced enough to gain the admiration of seasoned and established poets,” says Busse. Vardaman agrees. “The
poems in Bruce's new book aren't difficult to understand--they are wise and funny and kind, and we hope they help
readers grapple with the difficulties in their own lives and know themselves better. That's one of the things
poetry has to offer. We need more people (and poems) talking about how to live a meaningful life, a life that
reaches out to others, alongside, and in spite of, our ordinary failures and tragedies.” And Max Garland, the
author of Hunger Wide as Heaven and The Postal Confessions has strong praise for the new book: “There's clarity
that's not to be confused with naïveté or simplicity, an intimate tone that lures us, that gets us on the poet's
wave-length, and then come the bright surprises, and slants of perception and humor that accumulate poem by poem
into a redemptive vision of the world around us.”

The book will be available at the end of October. The publishers plan a launch party at Madison’s Avol’s Books on
November 10. “It’s the launch of Bruce’s book, and it’s Cowfeather’s launch as well,” says Busse. “It should be a
good party.” Other events are being planned around the state.

Cowfeather Press is a project of Verse Wisconsin ( Learn more about the book and
the press at: cowfeather press

From the book:

by Bruce Dethlefsen

monday I crossed off cowboy
tuesday fireman
wednesday president
thursday I couldn’t find the list
friday my own fishing show
saturday catching for the cardinals
sunday I took a nap
I had to
the moons flew by too soon

$16 (add $3 postage for mail orders)
104 pages ~ 81 poems
ISBN 978-0-9846568-0-6
Available Fall, 2011
from Cowfeather Press
Cover Photo: Diwas Sherchan
For more info or to order contact:
Sarah Busse, Co-Editor
Cowfeather Press
PO Box 620216 Middleton, WI 53562
cowfeahter press


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