Praise and Press for SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS STILL ALIVE (Nov. 2019):
With this collection, Sommers invites us together, to hear and describe the horrors of our lives, as Brecht calls them. He invites us to draw courage and encouragement from one another, not only because of the horrors, but because, as his title declares, someone you love is still alive. At the heart of the sentence, and our communal healing, is love.
–“At the Heart of Healing: A Review of Someone You Love Is Still Alive by Ephraim Scott Sommers” by Paul Lutter. The Bookends Review, January 8, 2020.
The book (…) touches on the hard truths that people are facing across America, resulting in a work that feels at once localized and universally resonant.
–“Atascadero-Raised Poet’s Recent Book Grapples with Issues that Ring True Locally and Nationally” by Malea Martin. New Times, December 26, 2019.
-This book is full of the nuanced, wide-ranging intelligence about what makes us human. You’ll close the last page feeling intelligently hopeful about how our wounds actually do serve to make us more wise and connected. Wow.
–Micro-Review by Isabella. Hummingbird Review, December 12, 2019.
Sommers wanted to showcase love as “the best act of rebellion against mass tragedy.” Sommers hopes the book will show readers that we need to lean into smaller groups for support, fall in love, help our communities, and spread positivity to combat these threats.
–“Professors in Print” by David Botzer. The Johnsonian, August 28, 2019.
Someone You Love Is Still Alive is about love and survival in the face of institutions that work to make something as genuine as desire improbable. Ephraim Scott Sommers deftly takes on nation, religion, and even marriage itself. And when I say takes on, I mean that these poems find him asking how he dare enjoy the privilege of what he questions: “And I don’t know / what the bible / of my want for him / would even look like.” This is a gorgeous and dangerous book.
-Jericho Brown, Author of The Tradition, The New Testament, and Please
Sommers compels the reader to remember that they are, after all, still human. Despite a fractured world, a challenging experience of what it is to be a member of a global society, intimate connections still bind us. When the poet writes “My name is sometimes the wound, sometimes the weapon,” he makes a case for the twin in all of us, the twin of creation and destruction, of love and hate. The language in which the poems are grounded is rich, it is anti-performance and pro-reading, proving a sensitivity to the rhythms and meditativeness which are the tuning mechanisms of the finest poetry. The voice is authoritative but never harsh, and that most important consideration of all, tone, characterized by a mix of tenderly expressed feeling and a brave kind of horror at the state of the world. It is a poetry we as readers need.
-Mary O’Donnell, Author of Those April Fevers
Praise and Press for THE NIGHT WE SET THE DEAD KID ON FIRE (2017):
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
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
These, the hard-won poems, small victories for people nobody’s ever heard of, are among the most memorable.
-“REVIEW: The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire by Ephraim Scott Sommers” by Miles White. Euphony Journal, May 27, 2019.
He also works primarily through long, careening sentences and drives these stories forward at a blazing pace.
-“Opening a Throat in the Earth: Ephraim Scott Sommers’ The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire” by Amy Sailer. Poetry International Online, October 2017.
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?”
–“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 (2017):
I go to art to explore particularly difficult sets of feelings.
–Between the Lines: Dead Kid on Fire. Interview with NPR Southwest Michigan.
I’m interested in that tradition, in singing you a story.
-Author’s Talk: Ephraim Scott Sommers. Interview with Superstition Review.
I love the mixture of the beautiful and poopy! We need more poop in poems! Poem challenge!
-A Conversation with Ephraim Scott Sommers. Black Fox Literary Magazine. November 28th, 2017.
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 (2010):
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.