Norman Fischer’s new book is like a house with many mansions. Each mansion is explored room by room. The rooms are poems, and the poet seems to move unconscious of positive negativity, unobstructed liberty, paradoxes without stress. The syntax alters in these mansions of thought. They were not built by monks in the 13th century but by a priest in the Zen tradition, in the United States, during a millennial shift. The poems walk through language structures they have inherited and interpreted; you can identify their location by shifts in their twists of words and sentences. They are looking for a perfect way to say what they are looking at, but the world is like water without an image in it. In its calm appraisals, the poems begin to find figures of substance and resting places worth looking for, living for.
— Fanny Howe, author of Love and I: Poems & Night Phlilosophy
Try SELECTED POEMS by Norman Fischer in small pieces, koan-style or parable-length, yet before you know it, his questions on mind, existence, compassion branch voluminously by location and torque the decades. The books meet each other as movements, variations.
Here Norman Fischer’s “return in poetry to fact of trees,” to the textures of world, ambition, flawed knowledge, contradictions of love, to thought troubled by re thought and by re-, re thought, to how all differ in “what we do do and what we intend.” Thus have a hearty laugh from the belly up! Fischer’s generosity lights up his mutual belonging with and to a Zenified version of the Great Conversation.
His poems grieve the dead, honor poet-friends, struggle to claim “an era that you love is cancelled.” He stuns us with keen attentiveness to daily life right beside endings and frazzled picture-theory: “In the picture we were given at the beginning/The hole where the tab is inserted …”
His ethical cry against cruelty of war and torture is meant to move justice forward, show how utterly important moral obligation, yet self-aware that without care, such exposés risk titillation at the expense of victims; scavengers and lawyers feed on flesh to survive: “the rest comes behind, /pelicans following a boat /naked statements of fact.”
- Deborah Meadows, author of Love and I: Poems & Night Philosophy
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.