The title’s the tipoff: this strong, inventive second collection from one of the country’s freshest new voices is multiply play-full with language. Fishman is interested in identity as well as communication between two or many, and even the cartwheel of a poem across the page is significant:
is the bridge let down
on the country road have travelers passed
the secret sign a flash of leg
in a split skirt, that bracelet snake
way up the wrist.
Fishman’s influences range from the British Romantics through Laura (Riding) Jackson and Lorine Niedecker, and she seems at times almost neighborly with them (Wordsworth is “Dear double double you”). As Brenda Hillman states in her introductory note, “Perceptively accurate, informed by contemporary philosophy, these intimate poems bring to mind the sort of riddle the answer to which is always another question.” Fishman asks:
Where does it enter—the chipped ear of
the porcelain mind
or the tongue-in-groove ear
of the ventricular mind.
And Dear, Read’s reader has the delight of discovering both. Her poems not only open doors—they throw open windows, too.
“If there is, as I believe, a distinctly American tradition of exploratory lyric, then Lisa Fishman must now be counted among its most promising practitioners. The Emersonian eye, the ear and wit of Niedecker, the distantly echoing spirit of Shelley all contribute to the resonance of this collection. Fishman’s poems, elliptical, spiraling, sound the mystery of ordinary things, a torn screen door, a torn paper hat, windrows of straw, to test the undisclosed meanings of both language and landscape. Their dense musicality propels those into the air.”—Michael Palmer
A my name is Alice
my dad sang
in the streets of the city
before the city
spoke French solely
We bounced a red ball, three angles
between us, in time to the chant
You had to keep the song going
through the alphabet, filled in
differently each time
though A was always Alice
so you had 26 names in the father’s song
Copyright © 2002 by Lisa Fishman
“Lisa Fishman’s minimalism creates uncanny space between lines, in which more is given than seems told, as in Chinese classical paintings . . . Her syntax, sometimes quite broken, is harmonized by concrete evocative texture. She conducts finely tuned words and lets them echo each other.”—Bei Dao
“Much like the sudden odor of rain or dry leaves rustling, these exquisite poems are not outside the common world. Rather, they are found entirely within it—in the sounds, smells, feel of a life, of each day's sun and its fading, of what we can know of one another. Lisa Fishman writes with an impeccable sense of cadence, of words as sounds too, of physical fact becoming thought and then recurring as poetry.”—Robert Creeley
Lisa Fishman farms in southern Wisconsin with her husband and has taught at Beloit College since 1998. Her poems have appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Indefinite Space, Elixir, and other magazines. Her first book, The Deep Heart’s Core Is a Suitcase, was published in 1996.