A DENT IN A DEARTH IN A BIOSPHERE
Plus ça change, plus la même chose. I’ve always seen the plain truth of that statement, as it applies to so many situations global and local, but in certain circumstances it really doesn’t obtain. After five years of Fence, and now ten issues, a few things are shifting, even ever so slightly, but yet momentously.
This issue bids à bientôt to beloved poet, translator, and playwright Henry Israeli, who is moving to Pennsylvania to burrow in the groves of academe and can no longer be our outstanding design editor. We take this opportunity to thank him deeply, gratefully, ornately, for his services to us, given virtually freely over the years. With our next issue, Fence 11, we will see the almost-too-wonderful-to-hope-for return of our original designer, the painter Adam Hurwitz, whose remarkable serial works grace this issue’s cover and color insert.
We bid farewell to poet Kenneth Koch, from whom we were lucky enough to receive a poem, a great big poem.
A few new developments on the World Wide Web, come September: First, a cooperative effort with three other literary-journal-turned-book-publishers. Fence Books is delighted to join McSweeney’s, Open City Books, and Verse Press in a venture we call the Big Small Press Mall. This is nothing more nor less than a Web portal to our individual sites offering a joint discount on books and, in some cases, magazine subscriptions. We will be offering some other things too: Visit and see. That’s bigsmallpressmall.com.
Second, Fence is sponsoring a poetry book review Web site, The Constant Critic. As one who has published several books of poetry recently, in the role of poet as well as in the more practically active role of publisher, I am intensely aware of the shortage of venues for consistent, timely reviews of books of poetry, both small and large press. The Constant Critic will aim to put a dent in this, if not void, at least dearth, by providing triweekly reviews of new books. Our three critics are eminently qualified, of good humour, and fair-minded. That’s constantcritic.com.
Speaking of books, this fall Fence Books offers up the winner of the 2002 Alberta Prize: The Real Moon of Poetry and Other Poems, by Tina Brown Celona. Celona’s darkly lucid, lightly comic poems are unusually explicit in their attentiveness to the primacy of poetry as a natural force, a force akin to that of the tides or their correlative lunar cycle. Describing in clear, unabstracted terms such elements of the quotidian as war, freedom, dream, “Satisfaction,” and imagination, Celona invokes poems and their poet with the same degree of focused intensity as she does more conventionally useful objects such as Singer sewing machines, shrimp, straw, driveways, corpses. The result is not so much an elevation as a leveling, a tableau of meaning in which the poet and her poems achieve a plastic, spatial, significant reality on the luxuriously detailed plateau of the natural world.
And as I prepare Fence 10 for publication, I prepare myself to do what so many women my age seem to be doing. Babies are busting out all over. That such a biospherically ordained event would take so much thought, so much planning! And apparently one’s attention is equally, if not even more so, consumed after the birth itself has been achieved. For this reason, but not this reason alone, Fence 11 will be co-edited by a dynamic organism composed of equal parts Caroline Crumpacker and Matthew Rohrer, both of whom have been indispensable to this project from its inception and whose resulting issue I can’t wait to read.