Wandering Aengus press
Winner of the 2021 Wandering Aengus Book Award, Empire of Surrender is “steeped in brutality and horror, yet the voice that speaks these poems is above all humane, tender, filled with wonder.” (Kevin Prufer, author of The Art of Fiction)
I can’t remember the last time I have been so taken by a collection; Michael Schmeltzer has written the best poems of his life. — Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Dialogues with Rising Tides)
Awards & Honors
Wandering Aengus Book Award
Jake Adam York Prize (Finalist)
“We have misplaced our gentleness,” writes Michael Schmeltzer in his stunning collection, Empire of Surrender where he brilliantly weaves tenderness, vulnerability, and love into a realm of war and brutality. Rooted in history and family, these poems do not hold back, fearless and poignant, they ache to be read more than once—“We are hostage to sorrow. / Lay down. Rest your head. / We can be each other’s pillow.” Schmeltzer is a voice I need and the world needs. I can’t remember the last time I have been so taken by a collection; Michael Schmeltzer has written the best poems of his life, make no mistake, this book will open you in the very best ways. — Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Dialogues with Rising Tides (Copper Canyon Press)
In these harrowing poems, Michael Schmeltzer meditates on the failures of empire, on war and cruelty, on the fragility of goodness. This book is steeped in brutality and horror, yet the voice that speaks these poems is above all humane, tender, filled with wonder. “What weapon,” Schmeltzer asks, considering the sharpness of axes, “can be made of me?” It is a complex question in a world that overwhelms anyone who imagines the end of violence as “pushing a pin back into a grenade.” At the same time, it elevates the power of our words, rendering them urgent and vital. This is an important book for our age of war and empire, one that discovers in the individual consciousness both truth and the potential for good. — Kevin Prufer, author of The Art of Fiction (Four Way Books)
Michael Schmeltzer’s Empire of Surrender asks us to look, to feel – deep in the guts – the vibrating aftershocks of war. Each poem powerfully speaks to the ache of what it means to witness war, especially at a young age. Full of visceral lyricism and tender epistolaries, Schmeltzer dives into the intimate depths of war, violence, familial history, empathy, and lineage. This is a book that is not afraid to ask: how and why do we hurt each other? What is lost in such acts of cruelty? And how can we cling to kindness as resistance? In this complexity, Empire of Surrender returns us to the heart: “with each clang I hear the heart // quiet a bit more. In the great war I become cake.” — Jane Wong, author of How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James Books)
Reviews, Interviews, & Previews
Sound Poetry—Radio Tacoma: A two-part interview with host David Gilmour, as well as a bonus episode of material.
SoundPages—Jack Straw Writers Program: An interview and some poems from my Jack Straw Writers Fellowship, a project which would later become Empire of Surrender, with host Kathleen Flenniken.