Every Good Boy Does Fine

Poetry and Prose

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Pub Date 05 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 05 Oct 2021

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“Glowing with warmth, vulnerability, and a heavy heart, Arsenia’s intimate reflections depict the past and present wrestling within the individual as he endeavors to chart his own course in the world.”—Atwood Magazine

Both a journey of individual healing and a call for action, these poems show that, with a little love and acceptance, anyone can flourish.

From one of Kansas City’s most exciting singers Calvin Arsenia, comes a debut book of poetry and prose Every Good Boy Does Fine. Named for the classic mnemonic used to teach the lines of the treble clef (EGBDF), his collection speaks to his passion as a musician and also his deep and tumultuous history in the Evangelical community.

Arsenia includes elements of queer poetry, writings on racial awakening, Christian de-conversion, and sexual awakenings in a homophobic community with the hopes that, when finished reading, readers will feel ready to start their own journey of self-expression through music and performance.

A profoundly thoughtful and enlightening work, Arsenia uses his lyrical talent to show that there is always somewhere to go no matter where you are coming from.
“Glowing with warmth, vulnerability, and a heavy heart, Arsenia’s intimate reflections depict the past and present wrestling within the individual as he endeavors to chart his own course in the...

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ISBN 9781524867218
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Featured Reviews

This was a moving collection of poetry. I definitely related to Real Talk and laughed aloud at it because it was so abrupt and concise. Thank you to Netgalley for this arc ebook in exchange for an honest review.

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Wow. Calvin Arsenia's "Every Good Boy Does Fine" is a solid collection of poems. This poetic memoir takes the reader through Arsenia's childhood and struggles to reconcile his faith, his race, and his sexuality. The collection has five sections: Virgin, Dirt Lip, Him + him, Brownnoser, and Confectionately, as well as illustrations interspersed throughout. I found myself being the most interested in his reflections on his relationship with God and how that intersects with his sexuality. One political group has all but erased homosexual Christians because how can one believe in God and be gay? I love the way Arsenia reclaims the space that everyone has in the kingdom. The section "Dirt Lip" includes excerpts from his teenage prayer journals, and they're filled with beautiful, hymn-like praises to God. Arsenia interjects his own misconceptions regarding LGBT+ folks throughout, including the poem "What is 'Gay Church'? there was a time in my life/when I thought/all gays hated Jesus." Lastly, in the final poem of the collection entitled "Higher Ground" he writes, "I read all of your words and I prayed and I fasted/You neglected to heal me of this fatal attraction/ I asked You over and over to make this queer straight/Your lack of action has sealed in this fate/You are the one who said, 'Truth will set free,' so this marks the end of me hating me." The poems could generate an important conversation about what Christianity is and who makes up the collective Church. Finally, the poems on race (namely in Confectionately,) were especially hard-hitting. I thoroughly enjoyed "Command +Z," "F*ck February," "Color-splaining" and "Internal Conflict." Take for instance this brief excerpt from "Internal Conflict." "I am ashamed that the only black men this country honors are the ones who they kill." So incisive. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend "Every Good Boy Does Fine." It's accessible for those who find poetry to be daunting or confusing, and it would surely create important and necessary discussions. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy.

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I don’t know what to say other than this is probably one of the most powerful collections of contemporary poetry I’ve read in a long while. From the very start Arsenia’s first poem punched me in the gut and left me in tears feeling seen for the first time in a long time. ⁣ ⁣ The collection has multiple focuses: faith, love, race, and being one’s true self while wrestling with the faith you’ve grown up with that urges you to be anything but. The raw honesty and relatability from Arsenia in poems like “Family Portrait,” “A Recipe for Reciprocation,” “Yet,” and a personal favorite “Angry” are what keep the collection alive and I have no doubts this one will stay with me long after this review. ⁣ ⁣ Thank you @netgalley and @andrewsmcmeel for the advance copy. This stunning collection drops SEPTEMBER 21. Thank you to the author for the bravery it took to form this collection. I look forward to adding it to my shelf of favorites.

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My very favorite thing about books is that they allow you to "read" another person's thoughts... ie, they give you true insight into the heart, mind and experience of someone who is very different from you. "Every Good Boy Does Fine" was a brilliant look through author Calvin Arsenia's eyes. These poems are deeply personal- almost memoir-ish, but they don't tell a complete story. Instead they are vivid snapshots of moments in the life of a gay black man raised in a deeply religious home and church. The poems reveal Arsenia's journey from "pray away the gay" through "struggle" and finally to "peace". (Expect raw language.) A few points... The book is a quick read- some poems are just a few lines while others unfold over a few pages. There is an especially poignant section reproduced from the author's teenage prayer journals. Additionally, while all musicians will recognize the title as a musical mnemonic (and Arsenia himself is a professional musician), the poems themselves rarely reference music (an exception is "A Notion", which I especially appreciated). Instead, his primary focus is his sexuality and sexual orientation, especially in conjunction with Christianity. (This is also the theme of his podcast- "We Were Christian Kids".) He spends a much smaller number of pages sharing some thoughts on race and racism. Finally, Arsenia is a Kansas City native, as am I, and there are several hometown shout outs included. I was really moved and impacted by these poems and I recommend the collection. I received an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. My thanks to the author, publisher, and #NetGalley for this opportunity. #EveryGoodBoyDoesFine

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"Every Good Boy Does Fine" creates a cacophony of emotions in the best way. It opens up about Arsenia's life in a way that is bold and does not apologize. The poems capture Arsenia's flair for musical compositions and have a sort of lyricism that asks the reader to create along with the author. Poems stem from topics such as race, sexuality, religious trauma, and relationships. The best poems were the ones that didn't fear purity. Swears, sexuality, and frankness all lend a hand in creating honest art. My favorites in this collection are: "Teeth Marks", "Curfew", "Angry", and "Perfectly Simple."

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What a brilliant way to express a memoir. It was gut wrenching and eye opening. The poetry combined with the the author’s raw experiences create a just a flash of blunt insight into the world we create. The world we expect all humans to “fit” in. The author makes his space and owns it. Wow. Bravo.

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I  received a free digital copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest review. It was a nice collection of poems, real gritty with strong themes. I personally couldn't really connect to the poems, they just weren't to my particular taste.

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I found a lot to relate to in this book, having grown up in a small town with a religious, conservative family, and being torn between wanting their approval and being strangled by it. Seeing the author grow and reading his beautiful poems about love and life was affirming. I didn't really understand some of the smaller poems that seemed a bit like filler in between, but there were other poems that were very meaningful and cut right to the core, with a rawness that was bracing and real. I appreciated learning about what the author experienced in his life through the vivid images and descriptions in his poems.

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This book was absolutely adorable! I was a little confused at first when I started reading the first few pages, because I thought the book was just pictures of each individual bug. However, I was thoroughly surprised how explanatory and well written it was. It screams boring non-fiction, but with all the pictures, it was worth the read!

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