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Michael Collier

Michael Collier was born in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1953. He received his MFA from the University of Arizona.

Collier is the author of seven poetry collections: My Bishop and Other Poems (University of Chicago Press, 2018); An Individual History (W. W. Norton, 2012); Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006); The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Neighbor (University of Chicago Press, 1995); The Folded Heart (Wesleyan University Press, 1989); and The Clasp and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1986).

About My Bishop and Other Poems, A. Van Jordan writes: “You might think of this as a time that privileges politics over poetry if you want to make a political difference. Michael Collier’s My Bishop and Other Poems reminds us of the power of the observant in an age when, too often, we move too quickly to notice the world unfolding around us. These poems bring a passion, an empathy, and a way of seeing I had forgotten was possible.” 

Collier was the state poet laureate of Maryland from 2001 to 2004. He also served as the director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences from 1994 to 2017 and as poetry editor at Houghton Mifflin and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from 2002 to 2012.  Currently, he is the director of the creative writing program at the University of Maryland and divides his time between Catonsville, Maryland, and Cornwall, Vermont. 


My Bishop and Other Poems (University of Chicago Press, 2018)
An Individual History (W. W. Norton, 2012)
Dark Wild Realm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006)
The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)
The Neighbor (University of Chicago Press, 1995)
The Folded Heart (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)
The Clasp and Other Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1986)

By This Poet


Birds Appearing in a Dream

One had feathers like a blood-streaked koi,
another a tail of color-coded wires.
One was a blackbird stretching orchid wings,
another a flicker with a wounded head.

All flew like leaves fluttering to escape,
bright, circulating in burning air,
and all returned when the air cleared.
One was a kingfisher trapped in its bower,

deep in the ground, miles from water.
Everything is real and everything isn’t.
Some had names and some didn’t.
Named and nameless shapes of birds,

at night my hand can touch your feathers
and then I wipe the vernix from your wings,
you who have made bright things from shadows,
you who have crossed the distances to roost in me.

Goat on a Pile of Scrap Lumber

He lowers his head like a fur-covered anvil
as if he knows all things in the world change.
His eyes are bisected by a horizon line of yellow light.
You’re wondering what might happen if you move closer.
There’s a language we speak to ourselves and one we use for others.
I told you, he’s lowered his head.
Nevertheless, you can see for yourself he’s chewing.
What he swallows becomes his rumination.
I too was attracted to someone I did not understand.
With each other we were bestial, that’s not too strong a word.
Although at first, at first, when our foreheads touched, we were curious.


For Judy and Joe Powell

Crows in a Fresh Mown Field Before Rain

Three in a group then one coming from a distance
to make four dividing into two scavenging pairs.

They waddle like ducks, dibble like robins.
This close to the earth they have nothing to say.

And yet as they bobble in a hands-behind-back
colloquy of feints and nods they are the ankle boots

of an idea gone missing, their laces threaded
through eyelets but left untied, accountants

of random expenditures, connoisseurs 
of the worm’s catacombs of waste, they limp eastward,

toward the mountains, covered in contractor bag
capes, one wiry foot then the other on the ground. 

If they would stay just where they are, all morning, 
they’d be the monument to the history they’re looking for.