How Music Works on Us / Dan Fliegel


How Music Works on Us

poems by

Dan Fliegel

44 pages, ISBN: 978-1-59948-976-6, $13 (+ shipping)

Release Date: February 1, 2024

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Dan Fliegel lives with his wife and a Vizsla in an empty nest in Chicagoland, where he also teaches public school. Poems are published in Adirondack Review, African American Review, Cold Mountain Review, Free State Review, Jet Fuel, The Dodge, The South Carolina Review, Streetlight, and elsewhere. He is the poetry editor for TriQuarterly. As a multi-instrumentalist he has recorded with Bright Eyes, The Eternals, The For Carnation, Marvin Tate’s D-Settlement, Tom Ze, Tortoise, Uptighty, Wiseacre (Chicago), and others. His ongoing musical project is Scurvy Jazzby, which can be found along with links to poems at

Notes taken in states of pure mindfulness, these short poems x-ray climate change, American racism, pop culture, and the natural world. Of our current political tipping point Fliegel writes, “The sky’s a slough, some new thing beginning,” asking us here as in the rest of this collection to sit in poised openness to whatever new thing may come—to what rushes with both “terror and comfort in…one sound.” ~Leah Claire Kaminski


This is solid work in the Midwestern spare, Neidecker tradition. The language seems to find joy in “getting right to it” simply, even obviously. Fliegel observes the living as it is daily done. This is a startling poetic to pose in a literary world of grossly advertising language. ~ Ed Roberson


In the mid-nineties, we played together in a funk band. Danny’s drumming: minimal, layered, with enough narrative to make you feel you were in on the joke. The same can be said about his poetry; reminiscent of Robert Bly and the master drumming of Elvin Jones. How Music Works on Us is 33 untitled poems that deliver wit and social commentary all laid out with the skill and precision of an “in the moment drummer.” ~Marvin Tate

If you are looking for action, look no

further than the smokestack, blasting acri-
mony, black smoke into greater blackness.
Of course this is a political act.
Why else would they dare you to ignore it?
And if you acquiesce, agree to walk
backwards, away from all things factual,
you’ve signed with your blood the devil’s contract.



We don’t quite know how music works on us.

One Victorian sexpert feared merely
hearing Chopin would make women swoon, and
for swoon, read fuck. Hearing Pet Sounds makes me
nostalgic for Southern California
from simpler times, right before I was born.
No smog or crowds, just longboards in the surf,
a citrus breeze blowing down from the groves.



In cliché and life, the snake grows new skin

the way skinheads took to rockabilly,
then marched in long beards, and called themselves Proud.
Some travelled to DC from Wisconsin,
partisans engaged in insurrection,
using Trump flags and bats to smash windows.
The capitol’s light is diminishing.
The sky’s a slough, some new thing beginning.



Churches might only mean realization.

Maybe there is nothing more bizarre than
believing           in pauses. If you listen
while riding on busses for something that
buzzes, isn’t that some form of prayer? When
misery cast its shadow through ages,
there was born the business of belief. Then
barkers came along, invented show biz.


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