Burning Books

No other writer since e. e. cummings has inspired such a wealth of innovative music.
— A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes

There have been few precedents to this kind of sustained avant-garde literature with a moving human content.
— The Oakland Tribune

The most musical prose since Gertrude Stein.
—The Village Voice


MELODY SUMNER CARNAHAN has thirteen books in print and over fifty short works published in national and international periodicals and anthologies, including City Lights Review, Five Fingers Review, How2, Leonardo Music Journal, THE Magazine, Rampike, Alcatraz, Factorial (Japan), At a Distance (MIT), The Closets of Time (Mercury Press), and Permission to Speak and What Is the Sound of Smoke (Teksteditions), The Brotherhood (NTT/ICC Tokyo, Japan), and more recently, Void California (CCA, Wattis Institute, 2006), Local Coloring (Axle Contemporary, 2017), and Telepoem Booth (Santa Fe, 2019). Her first novel, Only a Messenger, was released November 2011 by Burning Books. You Are Not Asleep, Carnahan's 4th story collection is available from Teksteditions, Toronto, Canada.

Carnahan received an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College, working also at the Center for Contemporary Music with composers Robert Ashley and Maggi Payne, and in the Book Art Program with Kathleen Walkup. At Mills, she began collaborating with composers and musicians to present her writing “off the page.” Her fiction has found form for over twenty-five years as intermedia creations in which she provides stories, lyrics, and prose for recordings, installations, video, film, posters, and live performance, notably the widely praised “performance novels” of Laetitia Sonami.


Only a Messenger as part of the Quadrants Series received a Bronze Medal IPPY Independent Publisher Book Award, 2013.

• Third story collection, One Inch Equals Twenty-Five Miles, received an Eric Hoffer Book Award, Legacy Fiction category, 2010.

• Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, working with writer William Gass, 2005.

• KUNM’s AetherFest commissioned a half-hour audiowork, Dido’s Revenge, 2003.

• Morton Subotnick commissioned four stories for his Gestures performances and interactive CD/DVD (Mode Records), 2001.

• Creative Media Arts Fellow at ABC Radio and the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, where she wrote and produced The X, Y, Z of It—a half-hour audiowork broadcast internationally, featuring the voices of Robert Ashley and Joan La Barbara, 2000.

• Received an Independent Publisher Award in Audio-Fiction for book/CD, The Time Is Now, 1999.

• Woody Vasulka commissioned “The Maiden” for his installation, The Brotherhood, at NTT/ICC in Tokyo, 1998.

• New American Radio commissioned two audioworks: Manananggal and The Bench, broadcast nationally on public radio, and archived HERE, 1995, 1994.

Other awards and acknowledgements have come from the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and NYC’s Experimental Intermedia Foundation. As a writer and editor, Carnahan has worked with many artistic innovators including John Cage, Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, Robert Ashley, George Lakoff, Charles Shere, Madeline Gins, and Evan S. Connell.

Other composers, artists, and performers have commissioned words: including Jay Cloidt, Amy X Neuburg, Peter Cherches, Jerry Wellman, Elodie Lauten, Barbara Golden, Susanna Carlisle, Elizabeth King, Pamela Z, Mary Armentrout, Susan Stone, Mark Weber, Patrick McFarlin, Marghreta Cordero/Nacha Medez, Evangel King, Theater Grottesco, and Simon Wickham-Smith. Recording labels include Tellus, NonesuchElectra, Zerx Records, 4 Tay Records, Tanuki Records, and Frog Peak Music.

My Enemy (Burning Books, 2019)
You Are Not Asleep (Teksteditions, 2014)
Twice Through the Maze (Burning Books, 2013)
I Can’t Hear You (Burning Books, 2012)
Only a Messenger (Burning Books, 2011)
One Inch Equals 25 Miles (Burning Books, 2004)
The Form: 1970–1979 (Burning Books, 1979, 2003)
The Centerpiece (Burning Books, 2001)
The Time Is Now
(Burning Books, 1983 / 2nd ed. with audio CD Frog Peak Music, 1998)
In the Presence of My Enemies (Clear Light, 1995)
13 Stories (Burning Books, 1995)
The Guests Go in to Supper (Burning Books, 1986)

Melody Sumner Carnahan
photo by Jennifer Esperanza