There was a clattering as…
130 Pages / Poetry
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.
Praise for There was a clattering as…
Nothing human is alien to me, as one old saying has it. Norman Fischer’s new book shows us how this might look in practice. It is a complex continuity, part pandemic poetry, part quoted prose, with lots of in-between. At times we are reading Fischer in 21st century quarantine; at times Defoe’s 17th century journal of the London plague, or Melville’s Confidence Man, or Candide. Pandemics and swindlers are not new, and there are no happy endings. But thank goodness for Fischer’s capacious sympathies and realistic good humor. The glass is half full, if we choose to believe it.
—Bob Perelman, author of IFLIFE and Jack and Jill in Troy
Can you write about the plague without this writing being situational and somehow banal? Yes you can, “There was a clattering as…”, is a poem about the plague, human condition, world materiality, soul fertility, and the mutual creation of God and human. This poem seems to me a dialog between all of humanity and God. Norman solves Beckett’s problem of I can’t go on, I will go on. He recognizes he must go on, that he must go on justly, he does it by writing this long poem. Yet it is inevitable to note that: Nothing can lead nowhere if not back to nothing. This book is magnificent and as human as it could get.
—Maged Zaher, author of Early, New and Collected Poems and The Consequences of my Body