Sunday, March 04, 2007

Recommended Reading

Codes Appearing -- Poems by Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer is the Depeche Mode of poetry.

For someone like me, growing up on the East coast, with the only bookstore in one hundred miles being a Barnes and Noble, I thought the poetic world revolved around James Tate, John Ashbury, Charles Simic, and Jorie Graham. When I was first handed Michael Palmer's "Sun" it was a much needed and bewilderingly amazing bridge to Language, Post-language, and the greater intellectual possibilities inherent in verse.

If Ted Berrigan and Bruce Andrews had a son (God help us), he might be Michael Palmer. Palmer presents his life and his periphery with room enough in the words and style to make, as readers, our own. There is freedom for everyone within the pages of Codes Appearing. There is no extraneous within Palmer's language, every color makes sense, every turn of phrase, every image builds on the fragment and suggestion surrounding it.

In his "Baudelaire Series" Palmer writes for and after the heavy weights of poetic history. He pays homage but also builds and brews his own voice, using the shreds of history and tradition to build his own platform on the heads of giants. He moves swiftly from Rilkeesque verse to Oppen's sparse line, to prose poems worthy of Edson and Wright, all written in the same searching vein of consciousness.

He pairs a bare-bones approach to verse with seeming plays and monologues, with found text, with implied text, and creates whole short stories embedded with one or two lines. His play with form and space, taking breath or inflating it, alter our perception of the possibility of verse and intellect. His use of refrain, something amateur hands easily squander, is both masterful and adds to the layers of word and intent. Poetic history is colored sand from a tourist trap, and Michael Palmer's Codes Appearing is the glass jug encasing it.


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