The Laughter of the Sphinx

Michael Palmer

Palmer’s poems can suggest multiverses, silent but spectrally there.

James Gibbons, Hyperallergic

A powerful, indelible new collection by Michael Palmer—“one of America’s most important poets” (The Harvard Review)

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.”

Paperback(published Jun, 28 2016)

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Ebook(published Jun, 28 2016)

Portrait of Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer

Contemporary American Poet

Palmer’s poems can suggest multiverses, silent but spectrally there.

James Gibbons, Hyperallergic

Depending on the poem, the laughter here is by turns bitter, wistful even playful, but typically inflected by a sense of enigma. Returning again and again to songs and singing, to voices and voicelessness, Palmer continues to push the boundaries of poetry with dream songs that explore the place of poetry in a surreal world ‘where headless horseman sing/fevered songs/of self and war.’ Palmer writes with uncanny precision about this world, a world that this book finds to be as beautiful as it is violated, and his poetry often achieves an ecstatic pitch, but one in which pain is rarely absent.

Jon Thompson, Free Verse

The music in these verses never exhausts itself […] Palmer recomposes the measures of poetic song for our time.

Benjamin Hollander, New York Times Book Review

The Laughter of the Sphinx…manages to cut deep into the unknowable appeal of the best poetry, some of which Palmer can claim to have written.


Palmer is among America’s most elegant—and abstract—heirs to modernist poetry.

The Believer

Even more than its music, it emanates silence.

Common Knowledge

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

Village Voice

The foremost experimental poet of his generation, and perhaps of the last several generations.

Citation for the Poetry Society of America's Wallace Stevens Award

Exemplarily radical.

John Ashbery

Magnificent … an astringent blend of surrealism and symbolism.

The New York Times Book Review