Lisa Fishman’s seventh book was recently released: Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition (Wave Books, 2020). She is also the author of 24 Pages and other poems (Wave, 2015); F L O W E R C A R T (Ahsahta Press, 2011); Current (Parlor Press, 2011); The Happiness Experiment (Ahsahta, 2007); Dear, Read (Ahsahta, 2002) and The Deep Heart’s Core is a Suitcase (New Issues Press, 1996). Chapbooks by Fishman include at the same time as scattering (Albion Books, 2010), Lining (Boxwood Editions, 2009), KabbaLoom (Wyrd Press, 2008), and ‘The Holy Spirit does not deal in synonimes: a Transcription of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Marginalia in Her Greek and Hebrew Bibles’ (Parcel Press, 2008). A pamphlet, Deer 1, was published by Oxeye Press, 2015, and Note on Niedecker’s Takuboku was published as a pamphlet by The Brother in Elysium in 2015 (expanded in The Wave Papers, 2016).
Fishman’s work is anthologized in Best American Experimental Writing (Omnidawn, 2014), 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. New work by Fishman appears in 6x6, Denver Quarterly, The Fairy Tale Review, touch the donkey, Aurochs and other journals. Fishman was a performer with Young Shakespeare Players (Madison, WI) from 2015-2018, the Lorine Niedecker Poet-in-Residence on Blackhawk Island in 2009, and recent Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, where she is Professor of English and Creative Writing. A Pushcart Prize nominee and PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers nominee, Fishman continues to live on the farm she and her husband started in 1999 in Orfordville, Wisconsin, dividing her time between Wisconsin, Chicago, and Nova Scotia. She is a dual US/Canadian and is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia.
“. . .Suddenly it occurs to me that Fishman’s writing feels apocalyptic in its winnowing, its implacable gestures, like a messenger flashing the equals sign of disappearance and revelation. [Her] poems walk so far inland that one arrives at a place where an oar might be mistaken for an auger, or a spade, glimpsed in the light of shipwreck.” —Daniel Tiffany
“[Fishman’s] spare, delicately paced lyrics call up the traditions of Dickinson, Niedecker, and Riding, and join the varieties of women’s experimental writing of the last two decades; Fishman turns pages into doorways for 21st-century investigative poetry. Perceptively accurate, informed by contemporary philosophy, these intimate poems bring to mind the sort of riddle the answer to which is always another question. Despite their delicacy they are tensile and powerful, allowing the space on the page to resonate with the life of an individual seeker in a collective enterprise.” —Brenda Hillman
“[Her] exquisite poems are not outside the common world. Rather they are found entirely within it, in the sounds, smells, feel of a life, [. . .] of what we can know of one another. Lisa Fishman writes with an impeccable sense of cadence, of words as sounds, of physical fact becoming thought and then recurring as poetry.” —Robert Creeley
“If there is, as I believe, a distinctly American tradition of exploratory lyric, then Lisa Fishman must now be counted among its most promising practitioners. The Emersonian eye, the ear and wit of Niedecker, the distantly echoing spirit of Shelley all contribute to the resonance [. . .]. Fishman’s poems, elliptical, spiraling, sound the mystery of ordinary things, a torn screen door, a torn paper hat, windrows of straw, to test the undisclosed meanings of both language and landscape. Their dense musicality propels those into the air.” —Michael Palmer
“Lisa Fishman’s minimalism creates uncanny space between lines, in which more is given than seems told, as in Chinese classical paintings . . . Her syntax, sometimes quite broken, is harmonized by concrete evocative texture. She conducts finely tuned words and lets them echo each other.” —Bei Dao
“One major consideration in reading Lisa Fishman’s poetry is the ways in which her words shape themselves into a story, the permutation of sound into meaning [. . . .] The idea of listening to the poem on the levels of the sonic, conceptual, [and] semantic is perhaps not new, but the attention Fishman pays, her adept recognition of intuitive etymological genetic structures is unique.” —Andrea Rexilius, Denver Quarterly
“. . . Lightly but passionately undoing (the unmade, undreaming) as much as doing, Fishman’s poems evoke figures of betweenness, floating ‘between the reader and the book.’” —Nicholas Royle
“Part of what makes Fishman's work so pleasurable to read is the feeling of pure motion in the sounds and images. . ., at once angular and wild, precise and hurtling." —Indiana Review
"Also implicit in Fishman’s work is the idea that words are physical or material, that they come through sound from the body, are in fact, part of the body...[T]he way words arrange themselves, through sound, through association, through relation to the origin of the body, is something that is beyond any definition we might try to impose on them...”—How2Journal
“[Her] lyrics carry the reader into a realm of immense, immediate, and surreal activity...Within Fishman's moving work of observation and recollection, the world of ordinary things seems itself to think, to mind itself; things gather, watch, prepare, betray, forget, explore, give names or keep silent. Throughout, the poet's mercurial intelligence is alert to the play of echo and the surprises of memory, in which the simplest verbs reveal their capacity to haunt. Her book's experiment is always linked to experience, its happiness to hap or chance."—Kenneth Gross
“There is so much that happens in the little words.” Made true, in Lisa Fishman’s deeply original materia...Slippery and sonorous, seed for thought: captivating...”—Carol Snow
“Yet Americans—and not just Ashbery—now use John Clare too. Lisa Fishman’s Clare is a poet of parataxis, of one thing after another and another. He is also the Clare of the unretouched manuscripts, whose messiness prefigures contemporary rejections of prose sense...Like Clare, Fishman yearns ‘to hear past words of the self,’ to bring other people’s voices into her poems...”—Stephen Burt, The Boston Review
For Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition:
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 gestation, bears 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
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
For 24 Pages and other poems:
The effect of condensing space/time presents a new kind of poetic geometry [. . .] This is a world in the midst of creation, an ars poetica of everything.
Fishman’s observations are informed by oneness with the ecosystem and depict an environment that is merged with that ecosystem, rather than personified within it [. . .]
More reviews of books by Lisa Fishman
Mad World, Mad Kings, Mad Composition
24 Pages and other poems