Eric Raanan Fischman’s Mordy Gets Enlightened came out in the summer of 2017 and at first glance might not seem that ‘long lost,’ but if you think about it 1-2 years old is a dangerous age for local poetry – motivation to promote is waining or gone, and it’s not yet old enough for nostalgic rediscovery. Hell, I’m even feeling that way about my book that just came out in November.
In our dynamic poetry scene, a lot can also change in 1-2 years. Already the newer poets probably have never heard of the publisher LuNaMoPoLiS or it’s editors Alan Mudd and Joseph Braun, who were make-happeners in Boulder for a few years, known for designing unconventionally-sized anthologies before settling into The Lune, a monthly chapbook series featuring a variety of high profile local poets, including Anne Waldman, Reed Bye, and the late Jack Collom.
Mordy.. was the first title in LuNaMoPoLiS’s perfect-bound offshoot the Little Door Press. With an adorable stature, simple design, and glossy cover, it’s the kind of book that feels good in your hands, in the vain of City Light’s Pocket Poets series.
While Mudd and Braun continue their work in mysterious other locations now, Eric Fischman, at least, remains in Longmont. The Jack Kerouac School graduate, originally from New York City, has been significant part of the scene since around 2011. Fischman is the kind of poet everyone loves. He’s genuinely excited about everyone’s latest projects and is welcoming to those new to the scene. He’s enthusiastically supported numerous community endeavors, including Boulder Poetry Tribe, for awhile thanklessly updating the calendar and writing several great articles (my personal favorite has gotta be 20,000 Leagues Under Longmont).
He’s also a great poet himself. Fischman’s work has always felt refreshingly calm to me with lots of space between the words no matter the emotional context. His experiments with form and syntax don’t confuse or grate the ears, like is so often the case, but feel pretty subtle and make you think, okay, yeah, I could see this being the New Language now. Despite his talent, Mordy…, as far as I know, is his only published book.
Mordy Gets Enlightened is a book about enlightenment. In it a nerdy, uncouth, World-of-Warcrafting adult who still lives with his parents receives a sudden, unexplainable spiritual awakening.
Of course, a Naropa alum like Fischman would be pre-occupied with the concept of enlightenment. As mentioned in the book’s acknowledgments, he was a student in Reed Bye’s legendary Contemplative Poetics class, which explored Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness practices, and their intersections with the craft of writing. I took the course a few years before he did, and random bits of the syllabus still pop into my mind from time to time, like recently a dharma art essay by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche with the gist of “why do you even have to write things down you egotistical creature?” Each class had the potential for some kind of gentle identity shake-up like that, leaving you a little lost and confused but also strangely delighted.
In a way it’s only a tease. For every fleeting moment of ‘ahh, yes, I’m finally GETTING IT,” it’s surrounded by a sea of your regular unconscious suffering. The epigraph for this book is the Allen Ginsberg quote “..and what’s the work? to ease the pain of living.” And I wonder if this frustration with the inevitable ‘pain of living,’ even when you seem to know better, is what motivated Fischman to write this book. If you can’t satisfyingly experience enlightenment at least maybe you can imagine it poetically.
The book alternates between poetry and prose styles. The poetry uses direct language with Fischman’s typical slow, spacious cadence. Take any three lines and they may feel sort of like a haiku.
“My umbrella waxes, your’s wanes/Mordy gets his coat.”
I understand the verse to be the language of Mordy’s new consciousness. The freeing of the mind is paralleled with the freeing of the text from the typical rules of syntax.
“Mordy makes for to exercise and it just does/ A body what it machine.”
The poetry is written in typical black on white. The visual presentation of the prose is, however, unique and jarring with most of the page covered in thick black ink. The text itself almost appears as if a flashlight is shining upon it with even some of the edges obscured. It directly, but often lyrically, narrates the story of Mordy’s sudden transformation.
“The pressure of Earthly life ripened before him like a field of bursting pomegranates and it was alright.”
As the book goes on all the obvious characteristics of enlightenment are covered.
Hyper-awareness of sensory surroundings…
“Trash can rustles in the thin grey breeze.”
The transcendence of ego…
“…he was also utterly awake and clear, as if he were distinct from the simple matter to which his consciousness was bound.”
“You can do everything,’ Mordy says.”
Understanding of and peace with mortality…
“…and knew with certainty, that, someday, he would die.”
Respect for all living beings…
“He approached its [tree’s] wide, low base, careful of the ants and earthworms, found a space in a nest of exposed roots and sat.”
“Mom, Dad,” he said, “I love you both very much.”
And my personal favorite, once again, the alrightness of everything…
“Everything was just the way it was, which was just the way it ought to be.”
In fact the final page mentions “you’re alright” eight times..
While this is all familiar to me, in fact “It’s Alright, Baby!” is a key slogan in my own novel, it is no less moving. And the fantasy that even the most unconscious, samsara-stuck among us could possibly suddenly stumble into nirvana is really appealing and hopeful.
I can’t say if this book brought Fischman what he was looking for, but I can say that retouching base with these concepts eases the pain of my living, at least for the moment I’m reading this. And all we have is this moment, right? I know that, right? Yeah.
Thank you, Eric, for writing this.
Jonathan Bluebird Montgomery is editor-in-chief of Boulder Poetry Tribe. He’s a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. The author of Pizzas and Mermaid, Taxis & Shit, and brand new novel The Reality Traveler, he lives in Boulder and teaches English at Front Range Community College. You can read more of his creative work at jonathanbluebirdmontgomery.com