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 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
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’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.
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN# 9781950268061 (7x9, 208pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781950268078 (7x9, 208pp, limited edition hardcover)