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 twelve books in print and over forty short works published in national and international periodicals and anthologies, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 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, 2012 & 2014). Her first novel, Only a Messenger, was released November 2011 by Burning Books. You Are Not Asleep, Carnahan's 4th story collection is available May 2014 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 Arts 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.


• 2014 Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, working with writer Rick Moody.

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

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

• 2007 Molly Sturges and Chris Jonas commissioned text for live performance at SITE Santa Fes Biennial.

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

• 2005 The improvisational Out of Context Ensemble interpreted One Inch Equals Twenty-Five Miles in live performance and for audio CD.

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

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

• 2000 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 with local actors and musicians.

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

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

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

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.

Many composers, artists, and performers have collaborated with and/or commissioned words: including Elodie Lauten, The Deus Ex Machina Cycle; Barbara Golden, At the Corner of Alive & Jesus; Susanna Carlisle, Tango Two; and Michael Sumner Between 5th & 6th, and Elizabeth King, Pamela Z, Mary Armentrout, Susan Stone, Jay Cloidt, Amy X Neuburg, Elizabeth Wiseman, Mark Weber, Sheila Davies Sumner, Patrick McFarlin, Marghreta Cordero, and Evangel King in works released from Burning Books, Tellus, NonesuchElectra, Zerx Records, 4 Tay Records, and Frog Peak Music.

You Are Not Asleep (forthcoming 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 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