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Lisa Fishman

Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition

Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition

By Lisa Fishman

  • Spanning 16 years of notebooks, teaching notes, and improvisations, Lisa Fishman's Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition upends time itself in lyric, prose, and visual forms. Sharing Paul Klee's intuition that "the eye travels along the path cut out for it in the work," this deeply multifaceted book moves between observational directness and maddened speech, places and persons, humor and alarm. Tempted by Laura Riding's renunciation of poetry yet rich with life-forms of all kinds (vegetable, animal, processual), it is a work of immediate presence and continuous change, enacting an ever-renewing ecology of connection in peril.

  • Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition, Lisa Fishman’s seventh book, is at one and the same time remarkably heterogeneous and remarkably cohesive. At 180 pages, on the long side relative to most collections of poetry, the book’s contents are of many kinds [. . . ]. [It] opens with Laura Riding asking whether, if truth is what we seek, we should be writing poetry at all. The whole book responds to the question, prompting its attention not only to the materiality of language (the alphabet, Ogham) but also to all the difficulties of “turning everything into language / w/o losing fidelity to / raw thing.” Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition, long in gestationbears on its body the marks of its failures, but it is a success. Like some other particularly valuable books of recent years (Barbara Reyes’s Poeta en San Franscisco, Cathy Park Hong’s Dance Dance Revolution, Robert Fernandez’s Scarecrow, Brenda Shaughnessy’s The Octopus Museum), it explores the liminal zone between a collection of lyrics and a book-length poem, with some of the strengths of both. [. . .]
    Paul Scott Stanfield, Ploughshares

    Poetry as interaction, as a way of being in the world, Fishman suggests, is also a way to sustain a life. The writing process, while ephemeral, nevertheless creates its own kind of cyclical order. Writing isn’t a way to extract truths. Rather, poetry as process creates a life through its ongoing interactions with the world.
    Emily Barton Altman, Annulet

    Lisa Fishman’s Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition enacts an engaging statement of personal poetics offering up a kind of secular reliquary. This is not the typical collection of poems. [. . .] Attempting to imagine and organize such a textual mélange gathered from so many various sources over such a long period is incredibly challenging. It’s no surprise Fishman poses the question, ‘What is this book? / Is this the book?’ [. . .] Akin to asking: What makes a poem a poem? When do you stop, when do you continue? Such decisions are, of course, left to the poet herself to determine. If the poet is on her game, nothing is ever too much just as nothing is ever not enough. [. . .] But first and foremost, she is the poet the work has chosen her to be.
    Patrick James Dunagan, Colorado Review
  • Lisa Fishman is the author of eight books of poetry, a short story collection, and several chapbooks. Her newest poetry book is One Big Time, out on Wave Books in spring, 2025. World Naked Bike Ride was published in Canada by Gaspereau Press in 2022 and was a finalist for the Canadian ReLit Award in short fiction. Other Wave poetry titles are Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition;(2020) and 24 Pages and other poems(2015). Fishman is also the author of three books on Ahsahta Press: F L O W E R C A R T (2011);The Happiness Experiment;(2007);and Dear, Read (2002); the latter was selected by Brenda Hillman as a finalist for the Sawtooth Poetry Prize. Fishman’s other books are Current (Parlor Press, 2011) and The Deep Heart’s Core is a Suitcase(New Issues Press, 1996).

    Fishman’s work is anthologized in Best American Experimental Writing (Omnidawn, 2014, ed. Cole Swenson),The Ecopoetry Anthology(Trinity University Press, 2013),The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral(Ahsahta Press, 2012),Not For Mothers Only&(Fence Books, 2007),American Poetry: The Next Generation(Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2000) and elsewhere. She is a dual US/Canadian with earlier roots in both the Detroit area and Montreal.

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

ISBN# 9781950268061 (7x9, 208pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781950268078 (7x9, 208pp, limited edition hardcover)

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