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Palmer on Palmer
Poet Michael Palmer is interviewed by Sarah Rosenthal over on poets.org, in a short but generative conversation about poetry (duh), its work and its politics. According to Palmer:
Poetry is a perverse thing in that it gestures both towards the world and toward a self which also, in a sense, is the world. At times it wants to bring the world impossibly close, and at other times it wants the world to go away so you can do some thinking.
This refusal, this “wanting the world to go away” is a key component of Palmer’s poetics, and Rosenthal finds its symptom in the various ways the words “no” and “not” insistently return in his work. When asked about this, Palmer interestingly avoids the obvious political suggestiveness of these words, and articulates something closer to a Bartleby position:
the “no” is a positive refusal, a critical refusal and one that’s historically part of the role of much poetry. Not the poetry of sentimental assuagement, of course, with its adhesiveness to the mushy cultural center. In fact, such work represents the negation of the critical force of poetry; it’s a poetry in fealty to a debased expectation. And that’s been true of a lot of writers since the beginning of industrial society. After all, the hatred for Shelley and Keats and those poets was monumental until a way was found—not so long after their deaths—to appropriate them into a harmless lyrical canon. In the summer of 1922, the Courier, a major Tory newspaper in London, ran an obituary that began: “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned: now he knows whether there is a God or no.”