WEIRD IS AN EMOTION
Oh, I've learned my lesson. Inarticulation comes with a price: One sounds dumber than one even is. One must explain oneself, even at the risk of mental strain. Still, sometimes I prefer not to make the effort.
Here is one place you'd imagine I'd really want to have my say, and for posterity, and for the record, and to set the record straight, and all the rest. And you'd be right, but I've chosen to do it in a way that feels right to me now—what else matters?—in that for far too long Fence has been overly identified with just me, when in fact the editing of Fence is now and has always been multipart, providential, "cacophonous" as Stackhouse says.
I am duly pleased to present a history of Fence that is sliced up and speculative. Herein, you'll
find an essay by each of the main genre editors of Fence over the first nine years, immediately followed by that editor's selection of their favorite work from the issues that they edited. I
asked the editors to record their impressions of Fence, their time with Fence and even before and after their times, if they so desired, so that this book could stand as the Edie of Fence, if you will: Each of Fence's editors has witnessed and experienced his or her own aesthetic and practical time with the magazine. Each came to it from his or her own jumping-off place, and saw the magazine take off or unfold within the context of his or her own aesthetic and practical affiliations, prejudices, and ethics. Each poetry and fiction and nonfiction editor has had her own particular experience of the journal, and has with her editing created her own particular piece of the pie that is the public perception of Fence, and I wanted to let each one stand as was, without any of the usual editing for redundancy or for emphasis. The
emphases are, in each case, all theirs. The redundancies stand as barometer of
The single most important thing to understand about Fence, and which you will hear reiterated within, is that as editors we do not seek a consensus. Instead we seek to come to a real understanding, and potential acceptance, of why another editor might sincerely and with integrity choose something that we did not from the gigantic pile of submissions. Fence is not a magazine of innovative writing, though often the writing that we have published and will continue to publish is informed by some of the significant developments in the art form over the past century, including Confession, Metafiction, Narratology, the New Narrative, Objectivism, Realism, Surrealism, the New York and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E schools. Fence is not a magazine of "poetics," though many of the poets who have graced. its pages are themselves engaged in discourse. Fence retains, at its root, a grounding in at least the concept of "the general reader": There is no good reason why this reader, if he or she existed, might not
apprehend the pleasure inherent in language and its narratives, given repeated exposure.
Something Fence has never done: Published ourselves. With the exception of those who came onto our staff post-publication, and one tiny entry under a nom de plume (not reprinted in
this anthology but preserved forever between the covers of one of my favorite efforts ever, the Ghost Stories feature of Volume 2, Number 2), and even though each one of our editors is a writer of singular worth, Fence has never published writing by its own editors. So this means that I've never, and shall never, have had the pleasure of editing any of my editors. Herein I have instead chosen to editorialize: a vastly different effort and one that I hope will not be interpreted as pushy, or intrusive, or unshuttupable, but rather as fond, and reactive, and interactive, if not quite attaining intertextuality. Here I have responded spontaneously and sincerely to various ideas and facts as they arise in each editor's essay. If at times I must chime in defensively about some referenced slight, or jump at the opportunity to clear up a misperception . . . I don't feel that I ought to be chastised. My intention and hope with this collection is to make a record of something that was, over its first nine years, deplored, applauded, assimilated, and at times, misunderstood. Most of all, or most relevantly to this book, Fence, a journal of poetry, fiction, art and criticism published biannually since the spring of 1998, and independently for all of its first nine years, has gone virtually unrecorded: There has been much personal discussion, many panel talks, and many interviews on the subject of its inception, its development, and its successes and failures, but up to this point none of this has been gathered in any significant way. There have been no definitive, declarative statements made about Fence.
And with this anthology we will keep it that way. In Fence's first years, I was often asked to make statements about Fence, in the media, such as it was-you will remember this was before literary blogs, before so many venues for speculation and declaration were available to us. And make them I did, often to the chagrin of Fence's other editors, as it was then made to seem as though we were all in agreement over whatever statement or other I might have made, however off-the-cuff, partial, or ambivalent a statement it was (and it was). Again, Fence
has never been a product of solidarity, aesthetic or otherwise, but rather of an intentional engine of dissimilarity. After several scuffles and brouhahas came and went (though they never entirely go, do they ) I determined that my real mandate at that time was to keep my mouth shut and my hands busy, to continue to do what I please as an editor and publisher of literary works with a minimum of opining or explaining. This has been, in part, a function of exigency, as is appropriate for a magazine whose most integral editorial function and aim is to
find and publish writing that bears the mark of the author's singular impulse—its exigency, if you will (and I will).
It has been my great delight to compile these essays and the editors' selections from Fence's first nine years that sandwich them. Nine years ago- now really ten , but I prefer to avoid the tedium of the decade even to the point of inaccuracy-Fence called me out of a thirty-year
span of solipsism and inaction, in which I mostly just wrote poems and cooked tasty vegetarian meals. Nothing much going on in the larger sphere, back then. My impulse to make Fence happen was strong in commensurate degree to my incoherent realization that my own poems were "weird": I thought at the time that this might stand as a literary-critical term, and though it did not serve me well when I trotted it out in public, you will see that it still might be used, however ungainfully, to describe the writing that I hold dearest, and that Fence will continue to publish for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading. Next, and for the first time in print, I include the manifesto Caroline Crumpacker, Jonathan Lethem, Frances Richard, Matthew Rohrer, and I created together in my living room, and which we included in our solicitations for our first issue: a truly collaborative and most hopeful piece of work.
 RW: see page 219 in Lynne Tillman's essay for more about the problems
Essays by FENCE editors et al from THE BEST OF FENCE 2009
Articles, Exchanges, and Interviews 2000-2019