Poetry. A long poem that's an essay but not, a work of philosophy but not, a gently stated argument that seems to have multiple points heading in multiple directions; a text about nature but also about thinking, language, identity, consciousness, science, idealism, economics, religion, and, in general, about the unsettling (in case you haven't noticed) paradox of being human in a human, non-human world, Norman Fischer's NATURE (a fractured re-do of Emerson) is a rare pleasure. While what exactly—if anything—is being proposed isn't so clear, the writing proceeds serenely in straightforwardly luminous fashion, constantly skirting the edge of the irony that it seems to indicate is built into all language acts (which is perhaps the point behind the point?). The catastrophe of climate change and blind human cruelty (contemporary disasters Emerson would have had little appreciation of) is present in every line of the text, yet there's a lightness and cheer throughout that seems not a cover up or a denial but a way of looking differently into the face of the facts without despair or anguish. Maybe this comes from the Buddhist perspective that's been buried (never explicit) in Fischer's writing since he first began publishing in the 1970's (some thirty books ago). Without soapbox, crying-rag, prescriptions or proscriptions, NATURE speaks from the middle of it all through mirror rather than megaphone words, whose passion and caring opens out onto a vast vista. No one can doubt our epoch presents an unprecedentedly perilous predicament, with everything—humanity itself—at stake. But there's a way of confronting it, this text seems to say, that keeps courage and kindness alive, strengthens them even.
Norman Fischer is a poet and Zen Buddhist priest. His recent poetry titles include NATURE (Tuumba Press, 2021); ANY WOULD BE IF (Chax Press, 2017); UNTITLED SERIES: LIFE AS IT IS (Talisman House, Publishers, 2018); and ON A TRAIN AT NIGHT (Presses Universitaires de Rouen, 2018). His latest Buddhist titles are What Is Zen?; The World Could be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path; and the forthcoming When You Greet Me I Bow: Zen Teachings from Norman Fischer. His translation of the Hebrew psalms, Opening to You, published by Viking Compass in 2002, is widely read in both Jewish and Christian circles. The University of Alabama Press Poetics Series brought out his Experience: Essays on Thinking, Writing, Language, and Religion in 2016. He lives in Muir Beach California with his wife Kathie, who is also a Zen priest. Author City: SAUSALITO, CA USA