“Words are the distant home.”
Born in 1943, Michael Palmer has written twenty books of poetry, most recently Thread (New Directions, 2011). Known as 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, which he won in 2006), Palmer accepts language in all its imperfection—fissures, breaks, echoes, inability to sound like a singular utterance—because he trusts that a fragment can communicate a possible whole, or a number of wholes. Words may be slippery, exceeding our reach, yet, in Palmer’s work, it is through this very distance that we reach words and call them home.
Palmer’s effort is to discover, by means of poetry, what remains of truth in “these times that I have called dark, when language itself seems under daily assault, and when the living arts are declared suspect or more frequently simply ignored by those in power” (“On the Sustaining of Culture in Dark Times,” Active Boundaries, New Directions, 2008). An accomplished translator and non-fiction writer, Palmer’s recent essay collection, Active Boundaries, includes a series of talks, “Counter-Poetics and Current Practice,” delivered at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1986.
Palmer will return to Iowa City to read from his work on February 15th, at 8pm, in the Dey House.