Cover image for The ledge
The ledge
Collier, Michael, 1953-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
60 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
PS3553.O474645 L43 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A new collection of poetry by the director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, which celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2000. "Dark splendor" are the words Edward Hirsch uses to describe the poems of the award-winning author Michael Collier. Collier's new work balances on the ledge between the everyday and the unknown, revealing the hidden depths of relationships. The poems in THE LEDGE are narrative and colloquial, musical and crystalline, at once intimate and sharp-edged. They render the world beautifully mysterious as they slide into unexpected emotional territory. A son loses his father's favorite hammer, and with it his trust. In "The Wave," the enthusiastic crowd at a baseball game rises and sits in frightening unison, belying their hopeful cheering. In "Fathom and League," a dive two miles deep in the Pacific reveals the submerged volcanoes of the ocean and the soul. In many of the poems, the familiar animal world - of dogs and sparrows and possums in the yard - transfigures the view through a window. As director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Collier has reinvigorated one of America's most important literary institutions. The artistry and directness of THE LEDGE confirm his place among the most significant poets of his generation.

Author Notes

Michael Collier has been the director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference for five years and has taught English at the University of Maryland, College Park, for fifteen years. His previous volumes of poetry are THE CLASP AND OTHER POEMS, THE FOLDED HEART, THE NEIGHBOR, and most recently THE LEDGE, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Collier is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, NEA fellowships, and the Discovery/The Nation Award, among other honors. He resides in Maryland.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Christopher and Collier, both poets of memory, differ formally and structurally in their new books. Christopher writes speechlike free-verse paragraphs, out of which he has composed two loosely narrative, 45-paragraph poems, "1962" and "1972." In them, the same speaker-protagonist recalls himself and his doings. He was 11 in '62, the year of Marilyn Monroe's death, the Cuban missile crisis, the twist, and the first James Bond movie--all of which he recalls, along with shooting a bird with a pellet gun (still sheepish about it, he disingenuously says "a boy" did it), black-and-white TV, comic books, and city neighbors. In '72 he was dropping acid, grooving to psychedelic rock, protesting the Vietnam War, spending most of the year trekking through Europe, and finding bedmates everywhere, it seems. Christopher's cool, concrete language and skill at conjuring a scene more than compensate for his disinclination to philosophize about either the times or the protagonist's life. Most of Collier's poems are set in unrhymed stanzas, regular in length but not metrically, though the lines look roughly equal. Collier's diction is as natural as Christopher's, but emotionally, Collier is warmer. That emotionality is beautifully announced by the first poem in the book, "Argos," which recalls, from the poet's older perspective, an incident in the Odyssey that most students breeze over, as he did: how Odysseus wept to see his hunting dog still alive and awaiting him. Collier presents the poems in three sections consisting, respectively, of ever less intimate memories. For instance, "My Crucifixion" in part 1 recalls an ultimately embarrassing childhood play scene; "All Souls" in part 2 reports an incident during a children's Halloween party in the poet-parent's home; and "Fathom and League" in part 3 recalls his frontline participation in a great public event, the discovery of the volcanic vents in the ocean's floor. Both books abound in what could be called " poetic photo-realism." --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Collier builds many of his poems around a single incident, whether his speaker is caught lying, in naked boyhood, on a bathroom floor while his sisters conduct a mock-crucifixion, or is simply being captivated by a man who crashes through a country club's plate-glass door. In this, Collier's fourth book, such ruminations still have their descriptive charms, but generally lack the dramatic urgency necessary to sustain the book as a whole. At times, Collier attempts to up the ante by invoking the mythical likes of an Odysseus or Sisyphus, but such figures often end up being trivialized. In "Pay-Per-View," for example, Collier compares the distorted images of a scrambled hotel porno flick to Pandora's "winged souls that once escaped/ from her exquisite jar--the shadows of our pains, the venom/ carriers of our desires." A plethora of animal poems prove capable vehicles for some nice phrasal and observational turns: a snake's skin is "a loose diamond basket weave"; "The New Opossum" is an "upholder of middle-class values,/ and link to a romantic past"; while the "Brave Sparrow" is playfully exhorted to "Stay where you are, you lit fuse, you dull spark of saltpeter and sulfur." Still, domestic scenes that confront a young son with "the puddle of urine/ beneath the toilet" or the rabbit-killing dog of "A Real-Life Drama" don't reverberate in the manner Collier seems to be aiming for, making images like "[h]is cock,/ a huge suppurating rudder, stirred the sulfuric/ ocean of his realm" (describing Cerberus) seem desperate stays against bourgeois ennui. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The first poem in Collier's The Ledge contrasts the youthful reader who plunges ahead while reading Homer and the mature reader who lingers. It's an apt beginning to this fourth collection from the director of the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference because one should linger over these elegant yet penetrating poems, which reading after reading yield startling truths. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



A Real-Life DramaThis dog standing in the middle of the street, tail stiff, fur bushy with fear, and a pedigree rabbit, its neck broken and bleeding beneath his paws, might have been forgiven or simply taken awayand shot under different circumstances and no one would have said much, except his owner who'd gone out into the yard at the start of the commotion, having been involvedat other times with the dog's truancies, and yelled, "Bosco, Bosco, goddamnit!" but unavailing, and everyone understanding that once more Bosco had been taken over by the dark corner of his nature.But this other sentiment we shared as well: the man who'd raised the rabbit shouldn't husband something so rare and beautiful he couldn't keep it from the likes of Bosco.-- Michael Collier from THE LEDGE. Copyright (C) 2000 by Michael Collier. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Excerpted from The Ledge by Michael Collier All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.