Praise and Press for THE NIGHT WE SET THE DEAD KID ON FIRE:
Ephraim Scott Sommers is a poet of the people: he knows humankind’s cruelties and knows he too is capable of such evil. This is why The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire is such a brilliantly dangerous debut. Sommers openly and artfully names the men, women, and children who have come together to shape the life of his mind. And his mind is indeed alive with poems of tremendous leaps and charged rhythms. This is a collection of homages and odes meant to remind us how glorious we are in all our ordinary ways. Ephraim Scott Sommers has written a book you should read to yourself and then read aloud to someone you love.
-Jericho Brown, Author of The New Testament
“I am neither ship nor ocean,” writes Ephraim Scott Sommers, “I am the thing the ocean wrecks the ship into.” The art of wrecking the mundane is everywhere on these pages where we are woken up from our days by Sommers’ tonal fireworks, by the oceanic sweep of his longish poems, by the human voice that speaks against death, standing up, full strength. And what a poet he is! — playful, innovative, earnest, hilarious, wildly alive, with so much verve and love of life, so much building of pianos “just to watch” us push them off the pier! Game is on, ladies and gentlemen. This is your chance to see a talented poet embrace the Whitman inside him and go “on the nerve” as Frank O’Hara told us a poet must. This is a splendid first book.
-Ilya Kaminsky, Author of Dancing in Odessa
Although Ephraim Scott Sommers’ smart, terrifying poems deny the safety of arrival, they remain in their rejection of closure stubbornly, improbably hopeful. Not for redemption or peace of mind—these anxious poems know better than to hope for the impossible—but for purposeful action after so much shame and wild mischance. The work of a lifetime, converting sorrow into something of use, a song for the hard journey ahead.
-Dorothy Barresi, Author of American Fanatics
The stream-of-consciousness style in earlier poems seems to mirror moments of wild youth. In later poems, the same style conveys a sense of being overwhelmed and overpowered, of asking, as Sommers does, “What will we do with all the world’s unhappiness?” It was only in reading these later poems that I realized the earlier poems do not function as mere nostalgia, but as attempts at self-preservation. To move beyond the past and make peace with a sometimes frightening present becomes a new challenge for the poet who closes the collection on a note of hopefulness, pointing out that “we are only beginning to live.”
–“Riding Out the Storm: Reviewing The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire” by Diane Turgeon Richardson. Aquifer: Florida Review Online, July 2017.
Somehow these poems about sin culminate to proselytize working class grit—the characters each town has but fails to celebrate (aside from police reports and government statistics). These people are interesting and their stories need telling. Reading this collection is like buckling into a Narcotics Anonymous meeting told in stanzas, and each speaker brings their best shit.
– “My Friend the Poet: The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire” by Dustin Hyman. Rougarou, April 2017.
There is no doubt about Sommers’ ability as a storyteller. The richest of his pieces in The Night We Set The Dead Kid On Fire are nearly prose poetry, densely massed thickets of visceral description tightly wrapped around an oft times brutal memory.
–“Review: The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire by Ephraim Scott Sommers” by Noah Sanders. East Bay Review, May 2017.
(Sommers’) opening poem, “Exhibitionism,” is absolutely epic—a mix of Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski, and Tom Waits!
–“Atascadero Native Ephraim Scott Sommers Releases Debut Book of Poems that Celebrates All Things A-Town” by Glen Starkey. New Times, 2017.
The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire focuses on the underrepresented—the convicts, the grave-diggers, the addicts—the “others,” and brings to life the terrible beauty of the gritty spaces in the world.
–“Creative Writing Professor Ephraim Scott Sommers Releases His First Book The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire“ by Staff Writer. College of Arts & Humanities Highlights, March 2017.
Interviews for THE NIGHT WE SET THE DEAD KID ON FIRE:
The main reason for the title, The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire, is because tragically, in the book, kids die (from heroin overdose, from being shot, or from suicide), and I wanted to make it apparent, too, that by placing my friends who’ve died up on the funeral pyre of poetry and setting them on fire, I am memorializing them and praising them and remembering how much they mattered.
–The Funeral Pyre of Poetry, an Interview with Ephraim Scott Sommers. Superstition Review: Issue 19. April 28, 2017.
But that feeling of defeat is necessary, I think, to the making of good art and to the reaching toward the making of better art. We aren’t meant to get what we want when we want it, and what I love about writing is that it forces me to be patient in a way that is almost inhuman.
-Sapling’s Five Burning Questions for Emerging Writers. Sapling #382. March 20, 2017.
For me, I realized as I read widely, international poetry in translation, contemporary American poetry, I realized that I need to make the world smaller. I need to write about things I have a personal stake in.
–A Drunken Odyssey Podcast Episode #251: Ephraim Scott Sommers. March 18, 2017.
I still believe kindness and joy are the best weapons we have against fascism as long as they are both paired with direct action that makes a lot of noise.
–Faculty Spotlight: Ephraim Scott Sommers. The Daily Citronaut. March 12, 2017.
Praise and Press for STONES & SMOKE:
These are literate, cleverly constructed lyrics with fresh rhymes and stories with dynamic emotional resonance.
–“Flying Solo” by Glen Starkey. New Times 2010.
‘Brewhouse’ is a song about a badass who eventually meets his match!
–“Educating Ephraim: Pursuing his muse through academia” by Patrick Pemberton. The Tribune 2010.