Norman Fischer

Necessary companionship

A review of Laynie Browne's 'Scorpyn Odes'

Laynie Browne is one of our finest poets working in the mode I am calling contemplative poetry. By which I mean not necessarily a poetry that is contemplative in the religious sense (though yes, inescapably there is also that in Laynie’s work) but rather in the compositional sense, that is, writing itself, language itself, composition itself.

A sense of community is everywhere apparent in the poetry world — the desire to share and promote what is offered widely, and to make of poetry a means to transform minds, hearts, and social practice. Fortunately or unfortunately, it can be difficult in all this to find a space quiet enough for a contemplative spirit, an exploratory sense, in the poem, of working through what’s real in how to respond to a world in and through language. For me the value of this is much more than personal, more than the pleasure it affords.

Blaser's Astonishment Tapes and Fischer's Experience: Discount offer

“The Astonishment Tapes will now take its place within the growing field of international research about postwar American poetry's important contribution to world literature. Miriam Nichols has once again done exceptional scholarship.”
—Peter Gizzi

“One of the great pleasures of this book is the glimpse it gives of another, more private Blaser than one we encounter in his collected poems and essays.”
–Ben Friedlander

Norman FIscher's Experience is the fruit of a life’s work in Zen (and other religious practice) as well as in poetry. It is mature, syncretic, wide-ranging, and open-hearted. Fischer is able to find common ground between Judeo-Christian and Buddhist beliefs or between Zen and the writing life without eliding the differences and contradictions. When he says that, in a certain type of Zen meditation, ‘you allow the phrases to come forward to you as if they were alive,’ I (as a poet) know precisely what that means. In these essays, Fischer accomplishes it.”
—Rae Armantrout, author of Versed, Just Saying, and Itself

Poetry as path, as weapon

On Uche Nduka

How many poetries are there; how many could there be? The poetry of investigation, the poetry of protest, personal poetry, national poetry, international poetry, documentary poetry, poetry of war and peace, emotional, environmental, philosophical, identity poetry. And what’s at the root of all these poetries, if anything?

Notes on 'A Mammal of Style'

Let’s begin with the title A Mammal of Style, which of course echoes the Chicago Manual of Style, someone’s notion of the proper and correct way of rendering sensible sentences in the English language.

'Gradually the World'

A review of Burt Kimmelman's new and selected poems

I was unfamiliar with the poetry of Burt Kimmelman when Jacket2 asked me to take up the assignment of writing about Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 19822013. Reading, rereading, pondering the volume — which is a life — has been an education for me in poetry’s use as engagement with writing as a means of being in the world. Why, after all, is anyone writing? Of necessity, I suppose, to figure out how to survive in — even appreciate — being alive temporarily in a world. Kimmelman’s poems surely serve that function for him and his readers.

A note on the visual poetry of Whalen, Grenier, and Lazer

Left to right: image courtesy of Wesleyan University Press, from 'The Collected Poems of Philip Whalen,' edited by Michael Rothenberg, 2007; image courtesy of Bob Grenier; image courtesy of Hank Lazer.

From the beginning of my writing, I have been concerned with (floored by) the fact of a word, or a letter, as a thing, a physical, elemental, thing — and the act of contemplating such a thing. In the late ’60s, I noticed the poems of Aram Saroyan — one word, say, “crickets” — printed repeatedly in a single column, in Courier type, down the page. My first works were less poems or writing per se about something than memorials to the fact of words, that they appear and seem to signify.

Michael Palmer's 'Recursus to Porta' (performed 1990)

We at PennSound are beginning to analyze quantities and types of downloads from our archive. From time to time we will have something to say about what we discern in such analysis. For now, this fascinating and not-quite-explainable factoid: since January 1, 2014, one of the five most-oft downloaded MP3 recording from PennSound has been a poem by Michael Palmer, performed at Buffalo in 1990: “Recursus to Porta” (3:34): MP3. And the poet whose PennSound recordings were most frequently downloaded during this time has been Norman Fischer.

Norman Fischer's The Strugglers: new from Singing Horse Press

'Is there anyone out there?'

Kaona / koan: Jamaica Osorio and Norman Fischer voice the conflicts

Photo: Courtesy of the White House by Chuck Kennedy

The students in my graduate poetry course on documentary poetry worry about voices. Some of them are writing about persons at risk: a homeless woman who loves to dance, inmates sent to prisons in other states — or locked up here at home. They're also writing about themselves and what they’ve lost, be it a grandfather or a culture or the tangled combination of both. Whose voices can they use? How do they cite what they quote of these voices? Are they potentially causing harm to those whose voices they use? Should they use names? Specify places? Beneath all these questions are worries about themselves, the possibility for self-harm involved in act of speaking out. Surely to put someone else’s words to paper is to implicate yourself.  So the question is, how to write voices without superintending them; how to be author without presuming an authority that puts others in psychic or physical danger.

Norman Fischer on Attack of the Difficult Poems

  "attack of the difficult poems" … is a great book!  you must read this book!  it will provide you with an education about what is happening, has been happening, in the world of post modern poetry and why it is important for everyone to pay attention to it, important socially, personally, religiously.  also very funny (the book is funny) and brilliant and a pleasure to read.  i was sad when i finished it, but well, isn't this always what happens. …

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