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« "Jew You" in 2002 and today [by David Lehman] | Main | My Back Story [by Molly Arden] »

February 20, 2022


Brilliant. A closed room of a poem with just enough oxygen to eat and laugh and cry for one last time. Thanks. Indran Amirthanayagam ([email protected])

Oh Michael Palmer! I've loved him well. And because I laugh and cry, here, at the same time: I love him still.

Terrific poem. Is it from Palmer's "Little Elegies for Sister Satan" or is it new? In any case. . .hats off.

Brilliant!! I am "falling" for this poet big time! A poignantly funny look at aging.

The opening and closing lines about falling down and a one-time offer have the appearance of a genuine sales letter which the poet with utter disdain has deftly transformed into an expression of total madness.

I like this poem a lot. I've read so many times about those who have died as a result of "complications" from a fall. I want an uncomplicated fall, where I just fall and never get up, don't regain consciousness, and never have to worry again about falling and its complications. This poem is exactly what I needed today, a day on which I have not yet fallen but sense the inevitability of my fall.

Hats off! Terrific poem.

Howard: But in the meantime, try to stay upright.

Installing cables and sky hooks.

Truly terrific poem. Thank you.

I’ve fallen and I did get up but it was a surprise at the time! Love this poem and the art work.

As one who falls frequently when my beloved dog tries to lunge at a pup across the street who is "looking at her funny," I relate in a most physical way to this poem. As a reader (and writer), I am in love with the Letter to Resident (i.e., to the Fallen!) format. Irony and terror. And artistry. What's not to love.


“Falling Down in America” is an outstanding, unforgettable poem. It rewards rereading, which is the ineluctable dividend of the best of verse: inexhaustible in both its meaning and its appeal. When I finished my initial reading of Michael Palmer’s poem, I asked myself what other poem reflected some of the extraordinary properties of his. My answer pleased me: “Musée des Beaux Arts” by W. H. Auden. Michael Palmer’s lithe, ensorceling insight and deliciously summoned, deceptive matter-of-factness are comparable to Auden’s. Both poems brilliantly evoke falling and its consequences. Both poems also capture the often overlooked ennui attending a so-called “fatal fall.” In Auden’s poem, Icarus suffers the same insidious doom of indifference from those nearby. (I wonder if Palmer had a soupçon of Auden’s poem and even Pieter Brueghel’s inspiring painting “Fall of Icarus” in mind in lines 14-24.) Structurally, Palmer’s poem is ingeniously set up as a kind of reflexive form letter received in the mail from an insurance company seeking to scare or bully older customers into signing on. The stark opening two lines are designed to propel those customers (and, perforce, readers) to the succeeding lines. Moments of cavalier disregard (lines 13, 20, 26, and 46-48) come across as standardly mechanized prose from insurance companies, the masters of faux feelings, which Palmer impressively evokes. And that’s another part of the beauty of Palmer’s verse: a conjured callousness jolting us into recognition and, poetically and practically, submission. Both my parents died not long after “fatal falls.” Not a day goes by without my thinking of their life-ending missteps and the two most damning words in the English language: “what if.” For me, the reactional mix of all that and more makes Palmer’s poem par excellence. Kudos to Terence Winch for unfailingly finding estimable poems to post at his BAP blogsite. It’s more than a treat. It’s a gold mine. By the way, are the stairs seen in the accompanying photo of a fallen Laurel and Hardy from "Hats Off" in 1927 the same stairs seen in Laurel and Hardy’s classic "The Music Box" from 1932?

Let me add one last bit of praise: the nimble humor percolating in Michael Palmer's "Falling Down in America." As I noted in my prior comment, the rewards of rereading this poem seem endless.

Earle: thanks for this great and insightful comment.

I love this poem's trapdoors, its depths, and also, it's interesting to learn that the listener is someone specific although the poem also includes us. I've admired Michael Palmer's work for years and years--it's wonderfully varied, always compelling.

Very dark and deftly humorous. Inspiration from the ads in magazines we tend not to read. Well done, Michael.

Brilliant! I just turned 70. There are no safety nets for us or the world.

Superbly done, light and dark, funny and accurate in its officious consideration.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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