[In the Empire of Light]

By Michael Palmer b. 1943 Michael Palmer
In the Empire of Light
the water’s completely dry

floating on a surface of itself
around islands pointed south-southwest

The wind fills it then
with more of itself

according to the rules
which cause parallel lines

to vibrate and cross
less and less

among the hanging baskets from a rain forest
among the visiting statesmen

from a rain forest
Here the dancer stops

to regain her balance
and reelaborate the distance

from the feet to the head
The risk is a part of the rhythm

She steps out of
and into balance

with those who are left
Chalk-marks show them where to stand

Michael Palmer, "[In the Empire of Light]" a part from The Book Against Understanding from The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972-1995. Copyright © 1998 by Michael Palmer. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Lion Bridge (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Michael Palmer b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Nature, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

Biography

Michael Palmer was born in New York City and educated at Harvard in the early 1960s, where he encountered Confessional poetry. His opposition to Confessionalism found root in a developing poetics when he attended the landmark 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, a three-week gathering where he met Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, and Clark Coolidge. Correspondence with those three poets greatly influenced Palmer’s early development . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.