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The Laughter of the Sphinx

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A powerful, indelible new collection by Michael Palmer—“one of America’s most important poets” (The Harvard Review)

Michael Palmer’s new book—a collection in two parts, “The Laughter of the Sphinx” and “Still (a cantata—or nada—for Sister Satan)”—contains 52 poems.

The title poem begins “The laughter of the Sphinx / caused my eyes to bleed” and haunts us with the ruin we are making of our world, even as Palmer revels in its incredible beauty. Such central tensions in The Laughter of the Sphinx—between beauty and loss, love and death, motion and rest, knowledge and ignorance—glow in Palmer’s lyrical play of light and entirely hypnotize the reader. The stakes, as always with Palmer, are very high, essentially life and death: “Please favor us with a reply / regarding our one-time offer / which will soon expire.”

From Publishers Weekly

Jun 20, 2016 – In his latest work, stalwart avant-gardist Palmer (Thread) makes use of repetition in sonic textures, word choice, and themes to let the varied elements of his poems echo and reverberate, creating a sense of meaning and movement amid what is seen and felt. “Mineral light and whale light,/ light of memory, light of the eye,” he writes in a sequence prepared for a dance collaboration. The collection’s two-part structure complicates such binaries as creation and destruction, life and death, and momentum and inertia. Palmer toes middle ground in order to demonstrate the fragility of modern life. “Let us/ write without meaning/ to” he exclaims, cleverly breaking his lines. His poems advocate for being both present and grounded, yet remaining capable of dreaming into the future. The work also points toward the hope of tuning in to a common frequency: “to dwell/ to dwell upon/ to dwell among” in order to become fully cognizant of one’s surroundings. As he writes in the second section, “Still”: “Things get lost/ things whose words/ can no longer be heard// Still we try to find them/ and place them/ inside the silences.” Palmer chooses to dwell among the limitations of his medium to find the beauty that fleetingness creates.
The Laughter of the Sphinx
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Poetry
  • Published: Jun 28, 2016
  • Publisher: New Directions
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 96 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Version: 2.1
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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