Monkey Bicycle Interviews Ori Fienberg

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Today J.A. Taylor from the literary journal Monkeybicycle interviewed poet and Phreelance Writer contributor Ori Fienberg about his piece ‘Clockwork Dog’ which appears in their latest issue. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

‘Clockwork Dog’ is built on a disparity of terms – ‘friendly friction’ / ‘retrieving discarded’ / etc. – how important is this discord to your poetry (or this poem)?

In poetry, and contemporary poetry in particular, I think that the
pairing of disparate words and contrasting language is a common
strategy. The goal, I’m pretty sure is to be evocative, but often it
results in obfuscation. You could say the same about the very title
and subject of this poem.  I understand that an initial reaction may
be something along the lines of, what the hell is a “clockwork dog”
anyway? Well, I don’t want my reader surrounded by a jangle of words,
so while the exact form of the dog is left to the reader, by the end
they have an idea of this dog’s motivations, and I think would agree
that he is a “good dog.” So rather than discord, in this and other
pieces I work to create chords from unlikely notes.

There is also an aggressive use of range in this piece –
running the reader from a ‘tornado’ to a ‘merry-go-round’ – can you talk to us about what you hope this scaled-variation will do to

Simply, the range makes the poem livelier and more engaging. The
reader has the opportunity to fit their own rotations and clocks
somewhere between bottle caps and planets, and make their own personal
connections to time with the Clockwork Dog as a guide. . .

For the full interview visit the Monkeybicycle blog and and to read more by Ori Fienberg check out our reprint of his sequence “Collectors


The Revolution

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A while ago, Adam Walker did an impromptu performance of one of his favorite poems, The Revolution Will Not be Televised, by Gill Scott Heron and a response poem he wrote. Dash happened to be on the ball enough to get it on “film.” Check it out!

Betrayal: Easter Poem

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How quickly they turned against Him! One day exalting Him with chants of Hosanna, Hosanna. The Next hurling insults and hatred at Him, as it was written: “He who will destroy the temple and build it in three days.”

Could they have forgotten? Might they not have heard? Were they not there when he fed the 5000? Did they not see the lame man walk? Had they not witnessed Him perform miracle after miracle after miracle! Did they honestly believe that he couldn’t when they said to him: “Save thyself and come down from the cross.”

What could have sparked such a sudden change? What could make them hate this pure vessel so much, a King who thought it not to lowly of himself to give his life for us! It was they that were always there. The leaders of the naysayers, the kings of the hypocrites, the power hungry, money hungry, Pharisees and Sadducees. As it is written: “He saved others but Himself He cannot save.”

Was the wine at the wedding a myth? Or was it not enough of a testimony in itself for the blind to be able to see! If nothing more, they could have asked Lazarus about the magnitude of his power!!

My Love Has Sand In It

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Scene: Desert Utah sunset. Wind. Dust. Wanderers. Kindred spirits. The wide-open unknown.
Instrument: Lap slide guitar

I’ll see you in the morning when the sun is on the rise
I hope by then the wind is gonna tell us where to blow and where to abide
Got to forget our past,
Dig up old roots at last, and move on light

We are kindred
Our minds are bound to wander, but our souls, they’ll come on home
So if you go, my friend, I’ll give you all the lovin’ that my heart can hold
But I should tell you
Oh Lord, it just won’t do for our love go cold

On our journey
May it never be a burden to reside inside this love
But I’m still learning, so tell me when I’m squeezing too hard or not half enough
And we’ll keep movin’ on
And hail that breaking dawn when the old day’s done

Week in Review 4/11 – 4/16

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Yes indeed, dear readers, Phreelance Writers is back! As promised, fresh, new content has been delivered and we hope that you are rejoicing, like we are. Despite the span of miles between us, Gage and I, with the help of our friends, managed to put together a solid week. We’re quite proud. If you missed it, it’s cool. We’ve got your weekly rundown, just the way you like it!

On Monday, Gage got us started with a return to Tiger Fist. This is quickly becoming our new catch phrase, motto and mantra. It’s hard to argue with such phenomenal results. I dare say it may even become our new Tao. Tiger Fist, a way of life.

On Tuesday, Dash complained in the form of a question. It’s something he has to ask himself from time to time. We appreciate the feedback in the comment section. Once again, readers, you prove that you are all smarter than us. But we knew this already!

Wednesday is our guest contributor day and Adam Walker stepped in and hit it out of the park. We’re in the process of adding his bio to our Writers page and we’re looking forward to more poetic contributions from him. It’s great stuff.

Dash posted on Thursday about a recent diagnosis and how that condition effects him. While he remains in good spirits, we suspect his illness to be terminal. He’ll keep you posted as things progress. We’re all pulling for him.

On Friday, Gage gave us an update on his new gig and larger plans. The guys is always scheming and it’s a good thing. There is a growing number of us who believe Gage is directly involved in shadow ops. Like he’s a secret agent, the Jack Bauer of job searching.

We’ve begun to use Saturdays as a creative space on Phreelance Writers and Ori Fienberg did an admirable job of showcasing his talent this week. We’ve said it before and it remains true. Our love of writing extends beyond the journalistic. Ori’s work shows how diverse and great writing can be.

There you have it, folks, our first week back from extended absence. We’re feeling good and looking to keep the momentum going. Stay with us.



Collectors: Paleontologists

Beneath their skin most children have dinosaur bones (a very few also
have a brain in their behind).  Always the dinosaur in them wants to
eat.  It stalks about the houses and roars for food.

The inner dinosaur wants to mingle with more of its kind.  It gets
excited when it goes to museums and sees itself hanging from ceilings.

Very few adults have dinosaur bones beneath their skin (or a brain in
their behind).  Aging tends to lead toward extinction.  Children
evolve millions of years at a time, until something happens:  an
internal ice age, or possibly the meteor of puberty.


Collectors: Good Grazing

All the young men of the village are put out to pasture.  At first
this does not please them.  They line the fence and bleat for their

During winter they grow bearded and wooly.  As it becomes warmer they
butt heads and brawl for days until they realize the pleasures of
grazing.  On cooler nights they huddle together by a copse of trees.
As the first summer storm approaches, they face the wind together.
After it has passed, they line up to be shaved.

Fall arrives.  One man unlatches the gate and the rest stroll into the
village.  Then a new herd of young men are led out to the pasture.



Collectors: A Brief Exploration

Early one evening a man begins an excavation of himself.  He sweeps
away the cobwebs of recent events, and then lifts the memory chains,
till he has access to his inner sanctum.

Then the man wades, waist deep, through chewed, missing caps of a
thousand ballpoint pens, up to an ark filled with the sacred relics:
fossilized dinosaur bones, vials of honeysuckle nectar; scrabble tiles
stacked like gold coins and spilling from burlap sacks. He hears
barking from a box of puppies, the first he’d ever seen for sale.

But there’s nothing he can bring back, and while he’s worshipping in
the temple, nothing can be added.  So the man replaces the chains,
apologizes to the spiders, and leaves, for now.


                                                                                                                                         Collectors: Mastering an Art

We will have a special award for aging.  For rusty faces, bones that
grow brittle, and patina covered hands.

Everyone will age as enthusiastically as they can.  Some are bound to
focus on the amassing of years, but it is not just the most
experienced collectors who age best.  Also to be considered is the
light unpredictable dust of small things lost, and for the true
competitor, the accumulation of some heavier sediment.

The ceremony will be held on a random day every year.  It will go on
as long as is necessary for everyone to receive their award.

                                                                                                                                                            Ori Fienberg works as a Writing Specialist for Foundation Year and is an accomplished poet. The Collectors was originally published in He’s had work published several places including Diagram, PANK, Subtropics, the current issue of Monkeybicycle, and forthcoming at Kill AuthorYou can find musings and links to other publications at

No Topic Assigned

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I’ve taught writing courses–freshmen composition, argumentative writing, teaching writing, business writing, technical writing, narrative writing, writing about literature, to every shape and size of college student for nearly twenty years:   ESL students who had been in the US less than a year college freshmen ready to quit, seniors ready to graduate, graduate students in biophysics, kinesology students, law students, social workers, even students on the U of M football team.  I’ve assigned rhetorical forms: a classical argument, a narrative, a business proposal, a story, a lab report, a legal rebuttal, a social services report.  I’ve never assigned topics.

If my students learned nothing else in my courses, I wanted them to learn that writing belonged to them, that the power and magic of writing is most deeply enmeshed with the ability to express thoughts about the topics about which people feel the most passion.  I wanted my students to see that writing is a form of expression that belonged to them, that they could possess so that they could go through their lives with this incredible craft at their disposal.  I would ask my students, “How many times have you written about topics that professors assigned?”  They would respond with groans and rolled eyes.  “How did you feel while you were writing those essays?”


Well, I would tell them, “if you are bored writing in this class, I will be bored reading it.  So let’s not be bored.  Write about topics you care about!  Write about topics that infuriate you, or engage you, or fill you with joy, or stimulate you, but do not write about topics that bore you.”  Writing is one of the seven great arts; can you imagine a musician in a composition course being told to create a composition about Mozart?  An art student told to paint an interpretation of one of Kant’s theories?  A journalist told to write a story on yesterday’s news?  All of these types of artists are told to create according to the structure or form of the art itself.  So part of my reasoning is I wanted to teach in the way of all the great arts.

But more importantly, I wanted my students to create.  Creation is mysterious–we do not understand it.  I myself do not understand the process of how I am creating this essay right now.  All I know is that when I write, at a certain point, I am taken away from myself.  I am part of a greater consciousness than just the me that is separated from others by the barrier of my skin.  I am tapped into a great force, a great welling of creativity.  And all artists experience this, and scientists and mathematicians do too–read Einstein when he discusses the process by which he created his theories and formulas.  He did not understand it.  This is awesome.

I wanted my students to experience even a second of the awesome experience of creating, where the words flew faster than they could type, where they knew exactly what they were saying but could not believe they had written something that grand when they read it.  I wanted them to experience creation; I wanted them to be creators.  I wanted them to be artists.  I wanted them to experience the awesomeness of this process we do not understand, and I wanted them to feel reverence for it, and I wanted them to know that this creativity could be reached at any time they chose to sit down and let the muse take them away from the boundaries that keep us separate.

That is why I became a writing instructor.  I wanted my students to fall in love with writing just like I had.  I wanted  writing to save their lives, just as it had saved mine.  I wanted them to feel the urgency to create in whatever field they went in.  Assigning topics destroys that possibility.  Quite frankly, often assigned topics  interest only the instructor, or instructors chose topics so the student can exhibit knowledge.  But writing is not  meant to merely exhibit knowledge.  It is meant to engage us in the great creative process that has existed since before the beginning of time.  Creation–whether of an essay, an invention, a mathematical formula, a painting, a musical composition–creation is the finest activity in which we humans engage.  It is the closest we get to experiencing what it must be like to be the grand creator of the universe.

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