The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995

Michael Palmer, Author New Directions Publishing Corporation $19.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1383-7
Palmer has long and rightly been considered the most lyrical, and the most aurally accomplished, among poets in the experimental tradition of Louis Zukofsky and Gertrude Stein; this selection spanning his career restores to print much of his influential work from the 1980s. Palmer traffics in paradoxical series of statements that challenge the limits of meaning: ""the false sky has never been this blue."" He invents semi-characters like ""Brother Mouse with his parachute in mid-air""; conjures places called ""Passages"" and ""Desire""; and unrolls meta-recursive titles: ""Here the poem is called Theory of the Real, its name is Let's Call This, and its name is called A Wooden Stick. It goes yes-yes, no-no."" Palmer (who is also a choreographer), seeks to substitute analytical, dancelike pleasures for the description and mimesis we expect from older poetry. His best poems highlight comic, vivid images--""our word-balloon, you will note, is slowly/ rising over the parched city"" and interrupt themselves with human cries: ""Each evening there's a poppy in my brain/ which closes before dawn/ Whatever happened then will not happen again/ Please move my arm."" Palmer is sometimes classed with the West Coast's language poets, but his European influences, his delightful poems for children and his sometime mysticism render that label insufficient. His best work, for all its abstracted puzzles, has something to show anyone who wants to know where poetry might go next, or where its fringes have been. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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