Monday, October 24, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 15.1 (Michael Palmer)

Notes for Echo Lake by Michael_Kelleher
Notes for Echo Lake, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.
Palmer. Michael
Notes for Echo Lake

Purchased at Rust Belt Books.

The first poems I read of Michael Palmer's came from this book. They were anthologized in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry, which provided my first contact with American poetry written from 1945-1990. I think they are still my favorite poems of his.

Soon after I read them I saw Palmer read at the Dia Foundation in New York. He read with Jorie Graham. I mostly remember her reading. Not because it was special, but because she was so snotty. She asked if there was anyone in the audience that could not hear her. No one answered, indicating that no, there was no one that could not hear her. When no one answered the question, she angrily spoke into the mic, "Well, can you hear me or not?" She of course did not realize that the problem was not the audience, but the phrasing of her question. I've disliked her poetry ever since.

But we were talking about Michael Palmer, whose poetry I like a lot, and who I also liked a lot the one time I met him in person. I remember taking him to breakfast at Cybele's, a little cafe I used to love on Elmwood Ave. We gossiped a lot about poets, and I remember he told me a story of going to visit Charles Olson in Gloucester. He described Olson, who you may recall stood six feet, eight inches tall and was quite heavy at that, leaning on the top of the refrigerator, holding a bottle of whiskey in one hand. The refrigerator, Palmer said, looked like a toy, and the bottle in Olson's hands looked like one of those miniature bottles they give out on airplanes.

I remember he also told me about the younger Creeley, the one famous for hard drinking and a violent temper. He described a look that Creeley used to get once he'd had too much to drink. Palmer said he'd learned to recognize that look as a signal to exit the room, because it meant you had only a minute or two before he was likely to reach across the table and punch you in the face.

Afterwards, I drove him to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and showed him the match stuck to the canvas of the Jackson Pollack painting. We stopped into the gallery bookstore. As a 'thank you' he bought me a lovely book of interviews with R.B. Kitaj, who we'd been discussing at some point. Mostly I remember him as being great company -- a good storyteller, a warm companion, a generous and appreciative guest.

from Notes for Echo Lake

from Seven Lines of Equal Length

Such words eyes will tell us what it was,
city as in sound—the voice
you hear is your own
caught in her throat—as in hills
rounded, lightly unexpectedly
full then lost among, might tell us
to be nowhere else. Such sevens as
sevens are. The continent drifts
from itself like memory's art
toward a window unhinged
by those forces memory alters.

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