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"A tale of war, lost children, a traveling circus, a shaman, and a ghostwoman, told by a temple sweeper who has not spoken in twenty-five years. A love story of a one-eyed boy and mute girl that moves through quantum time from a ravaged landscape to an island monastery of refuge."


Wet Cement Press is happy to announce that Ninso John High’s complex and vivid novel, Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper will be available in a paperback edition in April. You can Pre-order now and save 20%. 

There are also still a few copies available of the limited Collector's Edition of the Scrolls, which will be signed and numbered by the author and which will also include an original ensō artwork by Ninso John High. Collector's Edition sales end 12/31/2022. 

Finally, if you'd like to sample the book now, a few of the scrolls are available as inexpensive digital chapbooks


"Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper is the
most Zen work I have ever read."

—Norman Fischer
(Every Day Zen talk)

"Studded with dream characters, from the monk Enduring Sound, the Abbot who may or may not be the mysterious Hempis, the Temple Sweeper himself, the Old Story, the Learned Sage Women, the Poet, the Prophet, the Ghostwoman, the one-eyed boy, the mute girl, the circus performers, the soldiers, and you yourself, the Reader, who figures prominently into the tale, this astonishing and dizzyingly extensive work smashes all barriers of time and space, so that by the time you are done with its dark & light pages full, incidentally, of multicolored enso (Zen circle) art works, you don’t know who you are or where you have been, though its vividly realized scenes are stunningly clear. This wonderful book is itself an extended Zen koan that plays on the flute of traditional Zen literary tropes like a sincere virtuoso. Quite a read!"

—Norman Fischer, poet, Zen priest, author most recently of Men in Suits, Selected Poems: 1980-2013, Museum of Capitalism, and When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life In Zen

"If literature is important to you, if you imagine you practice Zen, or even thought you might someday, you should read these scrolls. Are you a poet, a muse, a daemon, or even a yaksha? You should read these scrolls. You will be swept away, a particle of dust in the universe floating on the winds of the Milky Way or rising like a bird soaring traceless in one deep blue sky. They are almost a book of serenity; perfect, precise, and beyond calm. Opening to the vast mind of a Buddha beyond Buddha. Is this a novel, a poem, a long dream, a treatise opening to the play of phenomena throughout time and space? Lyric, lovely, disquieting, a dew drop reflecting you throughout the universe beyond the reality limit."

—John Bailes, Kotatsu John Bailes is the Founder and President of One Heart Zen, the Buddhist Chaplain at Wellesley College, and the Guiding Teacher of the Monmouth Zen Circle in Monmouth, NJ

Washing the Sky.jpeg

"Scrolls of a Temple Sweeper defies easy categorization: Welding post-modernist narrative techniques to traditional discourse—to create a truly monumental excursion into matters of vital concern for today’s world—the novel’s seamless integration of rhythmical prose, lyrical poetry, and proverbial utterance is dazzling. Pathos presides, not bathos: terrible beauty is born and reborn."

— from the Introduction by Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno, author most recently of Remembrances of Luminaries Past

Poet and Zen monk, John High (Ninso) is the recipient of four Fulbright fellowships and has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (fiction and translation) and a 2020-2021 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, along with Matvei Yankelevich, for their translation project of Osip Mandelstam’s Voronezh Notebooks. Most recent publications of their translations have appeared in Harper’s and The New Yorker. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, most recently, Without Dragons—Even the Emperor Would Be Lonely, a book of ensōs, poems, and parables (Wet Cement Press, 2020) and vanishing acts, a work of cross-genre writings (Talisman House, 2017). High has taught at universities in Istanbul, Moscow, San Francisco, and Hangzhou; he is a co-founder and former director of the Long Island University, Brooklyn MFA Program, where he is now Professor Emeritus. Before the pandemic, he facilitated workshops in creative transformation with children, high school students, teachers, social workers, incarcerated youth, and writers in Cambodia, China, Portugal, and the U.S. and plans to continue this work as soon as possible.

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