Palmer, Michael 1943–

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Palmer, Michael 1943–

(Michael Stephen Palmer)

PERSONAL: Born May 11, 1943, in New York, NY; married Cathy Simon, 1972; children: one daughter. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1965, M.A., 1967.

ADDRESSES: HomeSan Francisco, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, New Directions Publishing, 80 8th Ave., New York, NY 10011.

CAREER: Writer and editor. Joglars magazine, Providence, RI, editor, 1964–66; Sulfur magazine, Los Angeles, CA, contributing editor. Saint Mary's College of California, Moraga, CA, distinguished poet in residence, 2003. American Academy of Poets, elected chancellor, 1999.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1975; Shelley Memorial Award, Poetry Society of America, 2001; two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts' Literature Program; John Simon Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.



Plan of the City of O, Barn Dreams Press (Boston, MA), 1971.

Blake's Newton, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1972.

C's Songs, Sand Dollar Books (Berkeley, CA), 1973.

Six Poems, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1973.

The Circular Gates, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1974.

(Translator, with Geoffrey Young) Vicente Huidobro, Relativity of Spring: 13 Poems, Sand Dollar Books (Berkeley, CA), 1976.

Without Music, Black Sparrow Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1977.

Alogon, Tuumba Press (Berkeley, CA), 1980.

Notes for Echo Lake, North Point Press (Berkeley, CA), 1981.

(Translator) Alain Tanner and John Berger, Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, North Atlantic Books (Berkeley, CA), 1983.

First Figure, North Point Press (Berkeley, CA), 1984.

Sun, North Point Press (Berkeley, CA), 1988.

At Passages, New Directions (New York, NY), 1995.

The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems, 1972–1995, New Directions (New York, NY), 1998.

The Promises of Glass, New Directions (New York, NY), 2000.

Codes Appearing: Poems, 1979–1988, New Directions (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Régis Bonvicino) Cadenciando-um-ning, um samba, para o outro: poemas, traduçöes, diálogos, Atelieì Editorial (Cotia, Spain), 2001.

Company of Moths, New Directions (New York, NY), 2005.


Idem 1-4 (radio plays), 1979.

(Editor) Code of Signals: Recent Writings in Poetics, North Atlantic Books (Berkeley, CA), 1983.

Contributor to literary magazines, including Boundary 2, Berkeley Poetry Review, Sulfur, Conjunctions, Chicago Review, Fulcrum, New American Writing, and O-blek. Author of numerous dance scenarios with Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, including Interferences, 1975; Equal Time, 1976; No One but Whitington, 1978; Red, Yellow, Blue; Straight Words, 1980; Versions by Turns, 1980; Cortland Set, 1982; and First Figure, 1984.

Author's works have been translated into over twenty-five languages.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A collection of essays.

SIDELIGHTS: Michael Palmer's poetry is known for its abstract obscurity and post-modern layering of images that are not apparently related. The subject of his work most often is language itself: the patterns words, syllables, and sounds make when juxtaposed or isolated. The influence of philosophers of language such as Heidegger and Wittgenstein are readily obvious in Palmer's poetry. As Brighde Mullins wrote in Modern American Poetry: "His poetic is situated yet active, and it affords a range of pleasure due to his wonderful ear, his intellection, his breadth."

Palmer's first volume of poetry, Plan of the City of O, was published in 1971. Although Palmer's poetry gained limited attention with the publication of this first collection, he has remained a respected but not widely recognized figure in American poetry.

Much of Palmer's poetry works to demonstrate that language—and meaning—is elusive. Often, Palmer's language functions more like music than standard verse; several critics have observed that not only in the ironically titled Without Music, but in many of his collections, the poems can be read as musical variations or linguistic harmonies rather than descriptive stories.

His development as an experimental yet lyrical poet can be seen in the collection The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems, 1972–1995, which consists of poems Palmer selected from his early volumes of poetry. Many of the poems come from books that are no longer in print or hard to obtain, and are arranged chronologically to allow readers to see his evolution as a poet. Eric Lorberer of Rain Taxi commented of the poems: "While certainly disjunctive, non-narrative, and philosophically analytic, Palmer's work is also sensual and even surreal." Reviewing the volume as a whole in the Valparaiso Poetry Review, Lauri Ramey noted Palmer's "exceptional technical craftsmanship." Ramey also wrote: "In spite of the unitary quality of each of his collections, we see more clearly than ever that they are linked into an intricate and thoughtfully articulated whole."

Palmer's more recent collections include At Passages and Company of Moths. The former consists of fifty-two poems divided into seven sections, and include pieces inspired by his work with visual artists and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Other poems in At Passages were written abroad, are dedicated to others like Andrea Zanzotto, an Italian poet, or reflect life in the United States in the early 1990s. In the Nation, David Levi Strauss wrote: "At Passages leaves us peering at the bridge, at what we don't yet know. But it has gotten us to the bridge, to a going on. And in these cursed times, that is a singular achievement." Company of Moths maintains his long-time interests as a poet. It includes some political pieces, while focusing on dreamy, fantastic poems in which language and mystery are the keys. Noting the poet's underlying sense of wit, Fred Muratori in the Library Journal also acknowledged that "his enigmatic voice continues to fascinate."



Library Journal, April 15, 2005, Fred Muratori, review of Company of Moths, p. 93.

Nation, December 23, 1996, David Levi Strauss, review of At Passages, p. 26.


Mary Literary Journal, (December 1, 2005), Kalicia Pivirotto, interview with Michael Palmer.

Modern American Poetry, (December 1, 2005), Brighde Mullins, "About Michael Palmer."

Rain Taxi, (December 1, 2005), Eric Lorberer, review of The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems, 1972–1995.

Valparaiso Poetry Review, (December 1, 2005), Lauri Ramey, review of The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems, 1972–1995.

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Palmer, Michael 1943–

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