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Think of a time when you’ve feigned courage to make a friend, feigned forgiveness to keep one, or feigned indifference to simply stay out of it. What does it mean for our intimacies to fail us when we need them most?
The poems of this collection explore such everyday dualities—how the human need for attachment is as much a source of pain as of vitality and how our longing for transcendence often leads to sinister complicities. The title poem tells the conflicted and devastating story of the poet’s friendship with the now-disgraced Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, interweaving fragments of his parents’ funerals, which the Bishop concelebrated, with memories of his childhood spiritual leanings and how they were disrupted by a pedophilic priest the Bishop failed to protect him from.
This meditation on spiritual life, physical death, and betrayal is joined by an array of poised, short lyrics and expansive prose poems exploring how the terror and unpredictability of our era intrudes on our most intimate moments. Whether Michael Collier is writing about an airline disaster, Huey Newton’s trial, Thomas Jefferson’s bees, a piano in the woods, or his own fraught friendship with the disgraced Catholic Bishop, his syntactic verve, scrupulously observed detail, and flawless ear bring the felt—and sometimes frightening—dimensions of the mundane to life. Throughout, this collection pursues a quiet but ferocious need to get to the bottom of things.
About the Author
Michael Collier is director of the creative writing program at the University of Maryland and the author of seven collections of poetry, including An Individual History, a finalist for the Poet’s Prize, and The Ledge, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
“There is something about his affections that keeps us awakened, vigilant. . . . A poet troubled and charming, struggling with turmoil in the animating surfaces and turns of his poems. . . . Sublime.”
— American Poetry Review
“Michael Collier’s My Bishop and Other Poems offers a nuanced foray into what it means to attempt, in language, to recount personal memories and to establish what broader authenticity and significance they might reveal. . . . Collier reminds us again and again that there is in poetry a political place for the genuine—that is, for the closely attended-to, paradoxical full menu of experience that, once in a while, yields up, however ephemerally, a sense of something akin to what might be called a truth.”
— Lisa Russ Spaar
“I’m already a Collier fan, and this book, over the others, is my dramatic favorite. The risk-taking is new, or at least riskier, clean, and profound—stories unlimited in freedom. . . . I’m glad I had to wait three hours in the doctor’s office so I could immerse myself into Collier’s mysterious processes.”
— Grace Cavalieri
"Collier’s style may hinge on his descriptive mode, but description by no means defines it. He is willing to take these poems where they need to go to establish a rich relationship for readers between not simply what the poet sees and how he sees it, but between the reader and the poet himself. All of this requires, not surprisingly, numerous techniques and approaches – a diversity over which, thankfully for us, Collier is in firm command."
— Literary Matters
“‘My Bishop,’ the central poem in this fine new collection by Michael Collier, once again displays his cool intellect and exquisite facility of language, knife-sharp humor and resilient humanity. What sets it aside as a masterpiece, his masterpiece, is how with equal parts unearthly grace and lit gas-jet fury he breaks our hearts.”
— Helen Schulman, author of Come with Me: A Novel
“You might think of this as a time that privileges politics over poetry if you want to make a political difference. Michael Collier’s My Bishop and Other Poems reminds us of the power of the observant in an age when, too often, we move too quickly to notice the world unfolding around us. These poems bring a passion, an empathy, and a way of seeing I had forgotten was possible.”
— A. Van Jordan, author of The Cineaste: Poems