In this slim collection of 47 verses, a debut poet explores everyday experiences through the lens of spirituality.
On his introductory page, Nathan includes a definition of the volume’s title, attributed to the Japanese Buddhist teacher Dogen—“The psychological process by which we break free of our habitual states of mind to discover inner peace.” At their best, the free-verse poems that follow work as prisms to fracture common occurrences into their component spiritual parts, hinting at an overall cohesiveness that the writer can imagine even if he cannot quite grasp it. Some touch on the contradictory connections of a relationship with evocative accuracy, such as “Triggers,” in which the poet protests, “you refuse to acknowledge my reasonable / objections on those never mind afternoons,” and “My Dear Doppelganger,” where he exults, “I love myself now / because together, and more than once, / we have challenged the language of self.” Other verses reveal Nathan’s grounding in Buddhism, astrology, and the tarot, always with a firm, sometimes tongue-in-cheek foundation in mundane reality, such as in “After the Dorje Shugden Empowerment,” which ends: “I focus on my compassionate wish / to alleviate your suffering and my desire / to eat a sandwich.” A handful of Nathan’s poems are transparent philosophical messages, like the four-line “Rebirth”: “I want to be drained of my self / emptied of all meaning / reinterpreted / and translated into another language.” Others are cryptic to the point of incomprehensibility, such as “Box Office Graffiti,” which includes the lines “Yet again, I need a nap. Who loves me? Snarf. Schmeg. Rerun. / Freakass. Lucky Box Office Chicken. Hello, it’s hot in here!!” But overall, the poems are genuine and compelling, blending spiritual questioning with an engaging humor and using language that is by turns down-to-earth and lushly suggestive: “I sat down naked in a remote corner of Central Park watching the / first one / of many tangerine color sunsets. I looked at my watch and became / realized.”
An accessible volume of poetry rich with vivid imagery and grounded in Buddhist and New Age thought.