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The most influential avant-gardist working, and perhaps the greatest poet of his generation ... [Palmer's] genius is for making the world strange again.

The Village Voice

Michael Palmer

Contemporary American Poet

An American born in New York City in 1943 and long resident in San Francisco, nearly all of Palmer’s poetry is published by New Directions: At Passages (1995); The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972–1995 (1998); The Promises of Glass (2000); Codes Appearing: Poems 1979–1988 (2001); Company of Moths (2005); and most recently, Thread (2011). He is the translator of works by Emmanuel Hocquard, Vicente Huidobro, and Alexei Parshchikov, among others, and the editor of Code of Signals: Recent Writings in Poetics. For over thirty years he has collaborated with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.

The Laughter of the Sphinx

Poetry by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer’s new book—a collection in two parts, “The Laughter of the Sphinx” and “Still (a cantata—or nada—for Sister Satan)”—contains 52 poems.

The title poem begins “The laughter of the Sphinx / caused my eyes to bleed” and haunts us with the ruin we are making of our world, even as Palmer revels in its incredible beauty. Such central tensions in The Laughter of the Sphinx—between beauty and loss, love and death, motion and rest, knowledge and ignorance—glow in Palmer’s lyrical play of light and entirely hypnotize the reader. The stakes, as always with Palmer, are very high, essentially life and death: “Please favor us with a reply / regarding our one-time offer / which will soon expire.”


Poetry by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer’s new collection is structured in two parts, "What I Did Not Say" and "Thread," subtitled "Stanzas in Counterlight." It begins with a beautiful suite of poems featuring "The Master of Shadows" (first glimpsed in his 2006 collection The Company of Moths). The counterlight of the title section shines in shafts of Palmer’s ever-surprising ironic wit, which is given to sidelong parallel leaps. Several poems in Thread directly address our endless wars, yet even in sorrow and rage the poems still glow with wonder. In multiphonic passages, voices speak from a decentered place, yet are grounded in the central rootedness of the whole history of poetry and culture that has gone before. In his new poems, signature palimpsests create complex cycles of thought, "returning and returning" via echoes to what he has called "the layering process, the process of accretion and the process of emergence."

Active Boundaries

Nonfiction by Michael Palmer

A lifetime engagement with poetry radiates from every page of this distinguished collection of essays and talks that span forty years of a poet’s life. Active Boundaries by Michael Palmer offers readers an intimate glimpse into the poetry behind the poetry that, as Robert Creeley once noted, "makes possible a place where words initially engage their meanings—as if missing the edge of all ’creations,’ of all ’worlds.’" With philosophical grace and conversational ease, Palmer unearths a vanguardist tradition in poetry that permeates languages and cultures, centuries and histories. He investigates an "active boundary" as it relates to a sense of form as well as, Palmer writes, "to a more social sense of poetic activity as it exists in the margins, along the borders and, so to speak, ’underground.’" Meditations on poets such as George Oppen, Paul Celan, Octavio Paz, Shelley, and Dante rise to the forefront among a multitude of other voices, like those of Trinh Minh-ha, Anna Akhmatova, Toru Takemitsu, and Susan Howe. Diaristic entries about his mother on her death bed are interspersed with epiphanic fragments; "Within a Timeless Moment of Barbaric Thought" confronts poetry’s relation to memory, war, the War on Terror, contingency, and experience. Pulsing through the heart-lines of Active Boundaries is poetry’s renewal.

The Company Of Moths

Poetry by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer has been acclaimed "exemplarily radical" (John Ashbery) and "one of America’s most important poets... startlingly lyrical and visceral" (The Harvard Review). His new book, Company of Moths––a collection in four parts, "Stone," "Scale," "Company of Moths," and "Dream"––is beautiful and fierce: "bright archive, sad merriment," "question pursuing question." Palmer in our dark times asks, "How will you now read in the dark?" Winner of the Shelley Memorial Prize and translated into over twenty-five languages, Michael Palmer was born in New York City in 1943 and lives in San Francisco, California.

Codes Appearing: Poems 1979-1988

Poetry by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer’s Codes Appearing combines in a single volume three of his most beautiful poetry volumes: Notes for Echo Lake, First Figure, and Sun (1981, 1984, 1988 respectively, from North Point Press). Making available a great deal of Michael Palmer’s most influential, exciting, and stunning work, Codes Appearing is a landmark volume. "It is impossible," as The Boston Review noted, "to overstate Palmer’s importance." "Michael Palmer," as Joshua Clover declared in The Village Voice, "is the most influential avant-gardist working, and perhaps the greatest poet of his generation. And his books, including the essential ’80s triptych of Notes for Echo Lake, First Figure, and Sun, are organized not by story but by a dreamland of calculus and sway .... [Palmer’s] genius is for making the world strange again."

Available: May 01 2001

The Promises Of Glass

Poetry by Michael Palmer

Now available as a paperback, The Promises of Glass is Michael Palmer’s first new collection of poems since At Passages (New Directions, 1995). The Promises of Glass contains seven sections: "The White Notebook," "The Promises of Glass," "Q," "Four Kitaj Studies,"" Five Easy Poems," "In an X," and "Tower." The Boston Book Review remarked that The Promises of Glass "seems to shimmer with an immaculate glow"; Publishers Weekly called it "superbly strange, sharply provocative, full of slippery acoustic pleasures." Reviewing this collection, The Village Voice Literary Supplement acclaimed Palmer "the most influential avant-gardist working, and perhaps the greatest poet of his generation."

Available: May 01 2001

The Lion Bridge

Poetry by Michael Palmer

The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995 offers for the first time a comprehensive view of Michael Palmer’s extraordinary poetry. Dense and haunting, analytic and lyrical, classical and profoundly innovative, Palmer’s work possesses a singular beauty. As Robert Creeley has stated, "The confident brilliance of this writing makes possible a place where words initially engage their meanings—as if the edge of all ‘creations,’ of all ‘worlds’ …” The poet himself has culled the 118 poems of The Lion Bridge from his great body of work. Rescuing from limbo much material that has gone out of print, this generous chronological selection (taken from seven of his books: Blake’s Newton, The Circular Gates, Without Music, Notes for Echo Lake, First Figure, Sun, and At Passages) includes individual poems, selections from serial poems, a sequence for his daughter, and two complete serial poems. Together the poems form a bridge, from the concentrated intensity of the earliest works to the increasingly expansive and echoic later explorations of “the persons of the poem,” as well as our century’s “stammers and vanishings,” its “embers and folds.”

Available: June 01 1998

At Passages

Poetry by Michael Palmer

At Passages is Michael Palmer’s first book of poetry in seven years––and his first book with New Directions. A collection in seven parts, At Passages explores the "hum of the possible-to-say," and, as its title suggests, delves particularly into the paths and meetings of language and meaning: "as much the unseen / as the visible / As much what has disappeared / as what remains."

Available: April 01 1995

Ground Work

Poetry by Robert Duncan

with a contribution by Michael Palmer

Robert Duncan has been widely venerated as one of America’s most essential poets: Allen Ginsberg described his poetry as "rapturous wonderings of inspiration," Gwendolyn Brooks called it "a subtle spice," and Susan Howe pointed to Duncan as "my precursor father," Lawrence Ferlinghetti said he "had the finest ear this side of Dante," and Robert Creeley called him "the magister, the singular Master of the Dance." Now Duncan’s magnum opus, Groundwork, is available in one groundbreaking edition. The first volume, Groundwork I: Before the War, was published in 1984, after a fifteen-year publishing silence, and received immediate acclaim: it was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award and won the first National Poetry Award for Duncan’s "lifetime devotion to the art of poetry and his grand achievement...." The second volume, Groundwork II: In the Dark, was published in February 1988, the month of Duncan’s death. The internationally renowned poet Michael Palmer has written a marvelous introduction for this new edition, where "the singlemindedness of [Duncan’s] life’s work shows itself in the confident energy of every line" (The Village Voice Literary Supplement).