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Michael Palmer

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Michael Palmer

On October 9, 1942, Michael Palmer was born in New York City. In 1963, he attended the Vancouver Poetry Conference, taking part in three weeks of workshops, readings, and discussions. While there, he met Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and Clark Coolidge, who each became important influences on the development of Palmer's poetics.

Palmer is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Thread (New Directions, 2011); Company of Moths (New Directions, 2005), which was shortlisted for the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize; Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988 (2001); The Promises of Glass (2000); The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995 (1998); At Passages (1996); Sun (1988); First Figure (1984); Notes for Echo Lake (1981); Without Music (1977); The Circular Gates (1974); and Blake's Newton (1972). He is also the author of a prose work, The Danish Notebook (Avec Books, 1999).

Palmer is frequently associated with Language Poetry, a connection which he responded to in a recent interview in Jubilat by saying: "It goes back to an organic period when I had a closer association with some of those writers than I do now, when we were a generation in San Francisco with lots of poetic and theoretical energy and desperately trying to escape from the assumptions of poetic production that were largely dominant in our culture. My own hesitancy comes when you try to create, let's say, a fixed theoretical matrix and begin to work from an ideology of prohibitions about expressivity and the self—there I depart quite dramatically from a few of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets."

Palmer has also translated work from French, Russian and Portuguese, and has taken part in collaborations with both painters and dancers. He edited and contributed translations to Nothing The Sun Could Not Explain: Twenty Contemporary Brazilian Poets (Sun & Moon Press, 1997), and Blue Vitriol (Avec Books, 1994), a collection of poetry by Alexei Parshchikov. He also translated Theory of Tables (1994), a book written by Emmanuel Hocquard after translating Palmer's "Baudelaire Series" into French. He has also frequently collaborated with others artists, including the painter Gerhard Richter and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.

Michael Palmer's honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and he was awarded the 2006 Wallace Stevens Award. In 1999, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in San Francisco.

by this poet

poem
Who is to say
that the House of Tongues is not that place 
where rats swarm around your feet 
under blooming sofas

is not that place
of poisoned snows, pens run dry 
and secrets now too late to know 
and certainly the murmuring there below

was a mur-  was a mur-  was a 
murmuring almost to be heard 
a bubbling
poem
She lay so still that
as she spoke

a spider spun a seamless web
upon her body

as we spoke
and then her limbs came loose

one by one
and so my own
poem
We thought it could all be found in The Book of Poor Text,
the shadow the boat casts, angled mast, fretted wake, indigo eye.

Windows of the blind text,
keening, parabolic nights.

And the rolling sun, sun tumbling
into then under, company of moths.

Can you hear what I'm thinking, from there, even as you sleep