Michael Palmer was born on October 9, 1942, in New York City. In 1963, he attended the Vancouver Poetry Conference, taking part in three weeks of workshops, readings, and discussions. While there, he met Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and Clark Coolidge, who each became important influences on the development of Palmer’s poetics.
Palmer is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Thread (New Directions, 2011); Company of Moths (New Directions, 2005), which was shortlisted for the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize; Codes Appearing: Poems 1979–1988 (New Directions, 2001); The Promises of Glass (New Directions, 2000); The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972–1995 (New Directions, 1998); At Passages (New Directions, 1996); Sun (North Point Press, 1988), later translated into French by Emmanuel Hocquard and Christine Michel; First Figure (North Point Press, 1984); Notes for Echo Lake (North Point Press, 1981); Without Music (Black Sparrow Music, 1977); The Circular Gates (Black Sparrow Press, 1974); and Blake’s Newton (Black Sparrow Press, 1972). He is also the author of a prose work, The Danish Notebook (Avec Books, 1999).
Palmer is frequently associated with Language Poetry, a connection which he responded to in a recent interview in Jubilat by saying: “It goes back to an organic period when I had a closer association with some of those writers than I do now, when we were a generation in San Francisco with lots of poetic and theoretical energy and desperately trying to escape from the assumptions of poetic production that were largely dominant in our culture. My own hesitancy comes when you try to create, let’s say, a fixed theoretical matrix and begin to work from an ideology of prohibitions about expressivity and the self—there I depart quite dramatically from a few of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets.”
Palmer has also translated work from French, Russian, and Portuguese, and has taken part in collaborations with both painters and dancers. He edited and contributed translations to Nothing The Sun Could Not Explain: Twenty Contemporary Brazilian Poets (Sun & Moon Press, 1997), and Blue Vitriol (Avec Books, 1994), a collection of poetry by Alexei Parshchikov. He also translated Theory of Tables (1994), a book written by Emmanuel Hocquard after translating Palmer’s “Baudelaire Series” into French. He has also frequently collaborated with others artists, including the painter Gerhard Richter and the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.
Palmer’s honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and he was awarded the 2006 Wallace Stevens Award. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in San Francisco.