Michael Palmer

Posted in Past Guests

Michael Palmer headshot

Born in New York City, Michael Palmer was educated at Harvard before penning his first collection of poetry, Blake’s Newton, in 1974. Palmer has translated work from French, Portuguese, and Russian, in addition to having edited Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: Twenty Contemporary Brazilian Poets. He has also frequently collaborated with visual artists, composers, and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. In addition to publishing over a half dozen books of poetry, Palmer has received recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America, among others. For 5 years, he was the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in San Francisco.


All clocks are clouds.

Parts are greater than the whole.

A philosopher is starving in a rooming house, while it rains outside.

He regards the self as just another sign.

Winter roses are invisible.

Late ice sometimes sings.

and Not-A are the same.

My dog does not know me.

Violins, like dreams, are suspect.

I come from Kolophon, or perhaps some small island.

The strait has frozen, and people are walking—a few skating—across

On the crescent beach, a drowned deer.

A woman with one hand, her thighs around your neck.

The world is all that is displaced.

Apples in a stall at the streetcorner by the Bahnhof, pale yellow to blackish red.

Memory does not speak.

Shortness of breath, accompanied by tinnitus.

The poet’s stutter and the philosopher’s.

The self is assigned to others.

A room for which, at all times, the moon remains visible.

Leningrad cafe: a man missing the left side of his face.

Disappearance of the sun from the sky above Odessa.

True description of that sun.

A philosopher lies in a doorway, discussing the theory of colors

with himself

the theory of self with himself, the concept of number, eternal return, the sidereal pulse

logic of types, Buridan sentences, the lekton.

Why now that smoke off the lake?

Word and things are the same.

Many times white ravens have I seen.

That all planes are infinite, by extension.

She asks, Is there a map of these gates?

She asks, Is this one called Passages, or is that one to the west?

Thus released, the dark angels converse with the angels of light.

They are not angels.

Something else.

for Poul Borum

From At Passages (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1995)



Seminar with Peter Gizzi | March 17, 2015

Reading with Peter Gizzi | March 17, 2015

Reading with Will Alexander | March 20, 2003
Vanguards in American Letters

Reading | October 1, 1998