Escape This Crazy Life of Tears: Japan, July 2010

A Zen Buddhist priest, abbot, and teacher, and author of many collections of poetry, Norman Fischer received his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has been active in the San Francisco Bay Area writing community since the 1970’s, loosely associated with the Language Movement. His latest prose work is Training in Compassion. Forthcoming from University of Alabama Press is his Experience: Essays on Thinking, Writing, Language and Religion.

About the Cover Image: "During the design process some images had to be removed from the interior of the book. The selection was based on the flow of the book and the visuality of the images themselves. The cover image was unfortunately pulled, but it was so striking that I wanted to incorporate it back into the piece. The reoriented image is fitting in its movement and contrast of dark and light, positive and negative." Allison Hanabusa

Escape This Crazy Life of Tears: Japan, July 2010
By Norman Fischer • 2014 • $24
Design by Allison Hanabusa


In July, 2010, poet and Zen priest Norman Fischer travelled to Kyoto to visit temples and meet with fellow practitioners. A Crazy Life of Tears is a poetic journal of that trip. Fischer’s poetry examines what it means to sit at the nexus of the past, present and future and links questions of being with vivid details of daily life. (It’s also sometimes very funny.) Fischer seeks to find a balance between past traditions (from the east) and new understandings (in the west). Escape This Crazy Life of Tears stages a beautiful dialogue between inner thoughts and outward experiences that carefully observes the self, and opens an imaginative space in which to examine it.


from Escape This Crazy Life of Tears: Japan, July 2010:

I’d had a thought

Then – now – gone

Can’t think of it

That thought yet thought’s

Shape – and – memory

Linger still in me , im-

Pressions of that which

Had occurred

In thought?


Fact? Is thought

As thought


Fact of the matter



those curved roofs

thought’s result – that

shrouded statue and f eeling

thought’s result , first thought

then deed and

ar tifact , past , timeless

(you can’t

can’t argue with


then thought remembered

thought forgotten , thought

frozen in wood , stone ,

paint –trace of person

(they undergo austerities,

          stay pure, vow not to

         leave mountain 12

years , hear

their voices