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Issue 17 :: Fence Books Mix Tape


Contributor Bios & Liner Notes



Michael Earl Craig lives in the Shields Valley, near Livingston, Montana. He’s the author of Can You Relax In My House; Yes, Master; Thin Kimono; and the chapbook Jombang Jet. A new book of poems—Talkativeness—will be published by Wave Books in the spring of 2014.

“Sleepwalking through the Mekong” was first published in the chapbook Jombang Jet (Factory Hollow Press). I borrowed the title from a Dengue Fever song. I am probably not alone when it comes to the beef dumpling.

“Group Therapy” will appear soon, I think, in a future issue of jubilat. Relationships are complicated.

“Jim” was first published in Faultline. When I was a kid I had a lawn mowing business. One of my customers was a man everyone called The Colonel. I never knew what his first or last name was. A year or so ago—who knows why—memories of The Colonel just popped into my head. I remembered how long he’d let his grass get before calling me. The grass would always clog the mower. It was terrible. I always felt he was watching me from somewhere in the house. Now I found myself wondering if he was still alive. And if so, did he still go by The Colonel?

“Wild for the Lord” (a slightly different version) was first published by Cruel Garters.


Nick Demske is a rogue librarian, maniac prophet, devastator and redeemer of words. His first book is titled “Nick Demske” and it lifts its voice to the heavens in such sweet, radical song. Nick was featured in 2011 as one of fifteen emerging poets to watch for by Poets and Writers magazine and his book was chosen as one of the 10 Best Books of Poetry in 2010 by a Believer Magazine reader survey. A year ago, he went on a month and a half-long, cross-country book tour that involved giving 43 readings, driving over 10,000 miles, having his vehicle searched for drugs by Kansas state troopers and sleeping in 5—count them, 5!—Walmart parking lots across the nation. Is there anything more patriotic? Probably. Nick also curates the BONK! performance series in Racine, which is basically like Christmas every month. You may visit him online sometime at his blog nickipoo.wordpress.com. In fact, you are hereby contractually obligated to do just that. Amen.

"The Bottom Line" was recorded a few years ago with an infrequently collaborating, informal hip hop project I have with singer Angela Malone and MC Taiyamo Denku. We created dozens of songs together and, typically, never show them to anyone.

"Angel of Death" i love Hank Williams. I wrote a poem about Hank Williams, for the poet Abe Smith, which is called "Smack Commandments" and was published by Action Yes here: http://www.actionyes.org/issue12/demske/demske2.html Abe later went on to publish a whole book on Hank Williams, called "Hank," which was published by Action Books.

"Sunday Review of Joyelle McSweeney’s Book, 'Percussion Grenade,' With Lines From Foxy Shazam’s 'Flamingo Trigger' Album" this poem was published in the journal Pheobe, and at Pheobe online, here: http://www.phoebejournal.com/?p=2874 It has also been mentioned in a discussion on criticism at HTMLGIANT, here: http://htmlgiant.com/craft-notes/how-to-be-a-critic-pt-2/


Ben Doller is the author of Radio, Radio, FAQ:, and Dead Ahead. He is Assistant Professor at UC San Diego. He cohabitates with 3 creatures in San Diego.


Brandon Downing is a writer and visual artist originally from California. His books of poetry include The Shirt Weapon and Dark Brandon, and a monograph of his literary collages from 1996-2008, Lake Antiquity. A long poem, AT ME, was released by Octopus Books in 2011, and his latest collection, Mellow Actions, from which this set of recordings derives, was released earlier this year. In 2007 he released a feature-length collection of collaged digital shorts, Dark Brandon: Eternal Classics, with a 2nd volume forthcoming next year. More video poems can be seen at his online channel, http://www.youtube.com/user/bdown68


Donald Dunbar lives in Portland, Oregon, and helps run If Not For Kidnap. His book, Eyelid Lick, won the 2012 Fence Modern Poets Series prize, and a chapbook, Slow Motion German Adjectives, is newly out from Mammoth Editions. He teaches at Oregon Culinary Institute, and looks at poetry for Draft: the journal of process.

One half of [in those moments...] was published in Octopus. Both parts appear in Eyelid Lick.

"The Soft Face of a Rabbit" was written for HOUSEFIRE, and included in Slow Motion German Adjectives.

"Sweet Shop" is forthcoming in Rattapallax.


Joseph Kaplan is a graphic designer living and working in Brooklyn. In 2011, he graduated with his B.F.A. in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design.


Poet/performer/librettist Douglas Kearney's second full-length collection of poems, The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009), was Catherine Wagner’s selection for the National Poetry Series. It was also a finalist for the Pen Center USA Award in 2010. His newest chapbook, SkinMag (A5/Deadly Chaps) is now available. He has received a Whiting Writers Award, a Coat Hanger award and fellowships at Idyllwild and Cave Canem. Raised in Altadena, CA, he lives with his family in California's Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts.


Paul Legault is the author of three books of poetry: The Madeleine Poems, The Other Poems, and The Emily Dickinson Reader.


Joshua Liebowitz is a multimedia artist based in Brooklyn, New York. He works largely with sound, geometry, language and emerging technologies to produce works in new media and performance. His work was recently featured in Hotel Particulier’s UNCOLLECTABLE (2013); The Poetry Project’s Epic Now: Poetry for Epic Times (2013); The Volta’s Evening Will Come (2013), and has appeared previously on Sound Is Art (2012); TVK Netlabel (2012, 2013) and Numbers.FM New(Media)Radio (2012).

In its present state, "SPINE" is an audio manifold: a sonopoetic space that unfolds as a series of events consisting of multiple sound planes where particles of utterance interact with waves of speech and movements of bodies. This manifold performs and is performed. It is constructed by a method that I call sonopoetics.

The method is activated by spectrally processing an audio signal of a recorded text to reveal its sonic properties at the morphemic- and phonologic-level. But this is a non-simultaneous drilling procedure: algorithmically, it is quite literally a statement of the quantum uncertainty principle; signaling that we cannot predict with certainty a text’s syntactic behavior, nor its ability to act as semantic delivery system. A unification of sound and poetry should reflect this uncertainty.

"SPINE" does reflect this uncertainty. Every unfolding micro-sound is derived discursively from the unfolding macro-speech of the recorded text, while the quantum sounds are allowed to combine and act both on their own, and in parallel with the larger actions of the text and its performers. The result is a sonifold – a soundspace of obfuscated borders, wherein subspaces compete for prominence while seeking to destabilize the certainty of spatial boundaries between sound, body and text.


Anthony McCann was born and raised in the Hudson Valley. He is the author of I ♥ Your Fate (Wave Books, 2011), Moongarden (Wave Books, 2006) and Father of Noise (Fence Books, 2003). In addition to these three collections, he is one of the authors of Gentle Reader! (2007), a book of erasures of the English Romantics, along with Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer. Currently he lives in Los Angeles, where he works with Machine Project and teaches in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts.


Paul Maliszewski is the author of Fakers, a book of essays, and Prayer and Parable, a collection of stories.


Kaisa Ullsvik Miller is a mother, a teacher, an artist and a poet. Her poetry can be found in numerous online and print journals. Her debut collection, Unspoiled Air, won the 2008 Motherwell Prize for Poetry from Fence Books. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.


Jena Osman's most recent books are Public Figures (Wesleyan University Press) and The Network (selected for the 2009 National Poetry series by Prageeta Sharma and published by Fence Books). She teaches in the MFA creative writing program at Temple University in Philadelphia.

"The Financial District" is a long poem from The Network. It has numerous components, including etymological charts and an historical timeline indicating key events that happened on various streets in the Wall Street area. History and etymology--which are meant to clarify and explain--collide in this piece so as to resist intelligibility. As a counterweight, these opaque collaborations are interrupted by a narrative--the closest I've ever come to writing fiction. I decided to read all of the narrative parts in sequence (in the future, every poet will be a fiction writer for 15 minutes). This story is dedicated to Leslie Scalapino.


Elizabeth Robinson is the author, most recently, of Three Novels (Omnidawn) and Counterpart (Ahsahta). LRL Textile Series just printed a beautiful little chapbook called On Monsters. Two forthcoming books: Blue Heron from the Center for Literary Publishing and a sort of hybrid nonfiction book, On Ghosts, from Solid Objects.

"On Beauty" It is perhaps autobiographical.

"On the Difference between Animal and Creature" I was trying to get hold, in language, of the smell and texture of creature versus animal.

"On Unconciousness" is for Bill Bennett, who died this spring of a stroke that occurred while he was onstage performing an oboe solo. He was the principal oboist for the San Francisco Symphony. Before collapsing, he held up his oboe so that another musician could take it.


Prageeta Sharma's recent Fence book, Undergloom, came out this spring. She's a professor of creative writing at the University of Montana in Missoula.


James Shea is the author of Star in the Eye. His second collection, The Lost Novel, is forthcoming from Fence Books next year.


Josie Sigler was born Downriver Detroit and grew up in the Midwest. Her chapbook, Calamity, was published by Proem Press in 2009. Her first full-length book of poems, living must bury, winner of the 2010 Motherwell Prize, was published by Fence Books in 2010. Her first collection of short stories, The Galaxie and Other Rides was selected for the Ruby Pickens Tartt First Fiction Award and published by Livingston Press in 2012. She was the recipient of a PEN Northwest Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Residency, which affords a writer the opportunity to work on a remote homestead near the Rogue River in southern Oregon’s Klamath Mountains. While so ensconced, she spent a good deal of time with a cougar who shared the same territory. Having survived that rare and spine-tingling friendship, she is currently in residence at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, where she is working on a novel. She recently accepted a job teaching creative writing at University of Rhode Island in Kingston beginning next fall.

Two short prose-poems, "The Warnings" and "The Pamphlet," from a manuscript-in-progress tentatively titled disambiguations.


Laura Sims is the author of three Fence books of poems: My god is this a man (Spring 2014), Stranger, and Practice, Restraint. Her most recent chapbook is POST-, published by Goodmorning Menagerie in 2012, and new poems will soon appear in Black Clock and Denver Quarterly.

"Murder Son(g)" was not written in response to any particular American shooting.

"My god is this a man" draws from the crimes attributed to Albert DeSalvo, a.k.a. the Boston Strangler.

The first lines of "In a field" came to me during an acupuncture session.


Sasha Steensen is the author of A Magic Book, The Method, A History of the Human Family, and The Future of an Illusion. Her most recent book, House of Deer, will be published by Fence Books in 2014. Essays and poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Free Verse, and Bombay Gin. She teaches Creative Writing at Colorado State University, where she also edits Bonfire Press. She serves as a poetry editor for Colorado Review.


Two Boobies and a Vagina consists of Brad Bush, Geraldine Kim, and Jason P.

Brad Bush was born in 1981 and grew into a large grizzly bear. He does not remember his days as a cub, as he recently awakened from hibernation. He roams the land, in search of salmon, berries, and festering carcasses.

Geraldine Kim was born in 1983 with six nipples: two primary nipples, two sub nipples above the primary nipples, and two nipples close to her armpits. They each have an eerie symmetry with the other breast which further creeps out gynecologists, women in the locker room, and people she has slept with. She has only slept with four people in her entire life so she isn’t a whore and even if she was why is having sex with a lot of people a bad thing? Anyway, she’s really insecure about her nipples so don’t ask her about it (them?).

Jason P. is a shadowy figure lurking about the margins of the 2 Boobies and a Vagina story. It's challenging to dig up the dirt on this guy, but it is a firmly established fact that he has a mere two nipples. Or IS IT?


Rodrigo Toscano’s newest book is Deck of Deeds (Counterpath Press 2012). His previous book, Collapsible Poetics Theater, was a 2007 National Poetry Series Selection. His writing has appeared in the anthologies, Against Expression, Diasporic Avant Gardes, and Best American Poetry. Toscano works for the Labor Institute / United Steelworkers out of a laptop, tethered to a Droid, residing in airports, occupying poetics in midflight. He is based is in the Greenpoint township of Brooklyn.

"SPINE" is arguably the signature piece of the Collapsible Poetics Theater (CPT). I wrote it in 2006. It is a “body movement poem (for three players).” The proportion of body actions to text is approximately 9/1. The piece was designed for maximum portability. Voluntary players would each have to memorize a maximum three or four lines and be able learn the piece with one “move through.” SPINE has been performed some 30 times over the last 6 years. For this version, I teamed up with soundscape artist, Joshua Liebowitz. Josh would compose a dynamic sound environment that would not only stand as a sonic poetic piece in its own right, but one that the performers would have to engage with a newly invigorated sense of the original body movement parameters.


Catherine Wagner’s collections of poems include Nervous Device (City Lights, 2012) and three previous books from Fence. She teaches in the MA program in creative writing at Miami University and lives in Oxford, Ohio with her son.

"Fowls in the Frith" About a year ago I started writing tunes for some of my favorite medieval English lyrics. This one is famously readable as either secular (a poem of existential or romantic angst) or religious.

Fowles in the frith,
The fisshes in the flood,
And I mon waxe wood
Much sorwe I walke with
For beste of boon and blood.

All depends on how you read “beste” (a word which meant either “best” and “beast”): as a lover, as Christ? The poem translates to something like: Birds in the forest/Fish in the water (“flood”)/And I must go mad/Much sorrow I walk with/For best (beast) of bone and blood. My musician friend Laurie Traveline Neyer recorded me singing this song and layered all the takes together.

"Now Goth Sunne Under Wode" This anonymous medieval lyric has only 23 words; of these words, only 7 appear once, so there are 16 repeating words in the poem. It’s a miracle of compression.

Now goth sonne under wod:
Me reweth, Marye, thi faire rode.
Now goth sun under tre:
Me reweth, Marye, thi sone and thee.

Several words have multiple meanings: “rode” in line 2 means both “face” (Mary’s fair face) and “rood” (the cross on which Jesus died—“faire” may then hint at the notion of the “fortunate fall”). Once the cross enters the poem, we realize that “tre” in the next line could also refer to the cross—and then the “sonne” is legible as the “Son,” Jesus, carrying the cross/tree toward Golgotha, or coming down from it, dead, to his mother Mary.

"The Stern of Heaven" The poem begs Mary for help during plaguetime. I only sing the first stanza, which sets up a vertical, atemporal spiritual geography:

The stern of heaven modre mary
That with hir milke fed Christ Jesu
Of deth that Adam folily had planted
She the roote updreu

(The star of heaven, mother Mary/That with her milk fed Christ Jesus/Of death, that Adam in his folly planted/She drew up the root.) So: Mary’s up in the sky. Death (planted through sin) is below the earth. The humans—Adam the sinner and Christ Jesus, a human baby fed by Mary’s milk—are between, on earth. Through Christ, Mary reaches all the way down from heaven and pulls up the root of death. I tried to imitate the high/middle/low structure with the tune – “star” is an octave away from “death.”

"Western Wind" I feel awkward reciting this fifteenth-century secular lyric in my American accent because if I pronounce “again” the way I usually do, the rhyme between “rain” and “again” goes away. When I sing the lyric as a country-and-western song, “again” sounds kind of like “wind” and some sound-resonance returns to the end of the poem.


Elizabeth Marie Young's book Aim Straight at the Fountain and Press Vaporize won the Motherwell Prize in 2009 from Fence Books. She currently teaches Classics and Comparative Literature at Wellesley College.