Poetry. California Interest. The pandemic is a fact, a metaphor, an archetype, an epoch-changing moment of history, and an occasion for collective soul-searching. In this various, long, and haunting text, including much direct and bent quotation from a variety of works, Norman Fischer takes the reader on a swerving ride through space and time (ancient Rome, biblical Jerusalem, Elizabethan and 16th Century England, 17th Century Portugal, 19th Century France, etc.) that seems, with patient logic, to be building toward a conclusion about what pandemics are about, and where they lead us. This breathless poem pokes at the limits of meaning as it explores what what we call "religion" has to say and not say about it.
Norman Fischer has published twenty-one books of poetry and six books on Buddhism. His poetry has been anthologized in The Wisdom Anthology of North American Poetry, Basta Azzez enough, What Book? and many literary magazines. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop and a Masters in Buddhism from the Graduate Theological Union at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been a Zen Buddhist priest for more than 40 years, serving as co- abbot for the San Francisco Zen Center from 1995-2000. Founder and teacher of the Everyday Zen Foundation, he is one of the most highly respected Zen teachers in America, regularly leading Zen Buddhist retreats and events around the world. His essays have appeared in such notable collections as Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture (University of Alabama Press, 2010) and are frequently included in Best Buddhist Writing (Shambhala). His collections of essays on writing, Experience: Thinking, Writing, Language and Religion (University of Alabama Press) and on Buddhism, When You Greet Me I Bow (Shambhala) are widely read, as is his translation of the Hebrew psalms, Opening to You.