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Michael Collier

Michael Collier is professor of English at the University of Maryland and director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Middlebury College. A new collection of his poems, An Individual History, is forthcoming from Norton in 2012. His poem, “The Bees of Deir Keifa,” from the Summer 2010 issue of VQR was reprinted in both Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize Anthology.



Summer 2011 | Poetry

The workers specialize according to their age.
At first they feed the queen her royal jelly
and then they nurse the larvae in their combs.


Summer 2011 | Poetry

My grandfather's right eye was a frozen slab
of milk-white ice that light never thawed
and when he slept, the lid didn't drown
the curse of its constant stare.

The Bees of Deir Kifa

The sun going down is lost in the gorge to the south, lost in the rows of olive trees, light in the webs of their limbs. This is the time when the thousands and thousands come home. It is not the time for the keeper’s veil and gloves, not t [...]

An Individual History

Winter 2009 | Poetry

This was before the time of lithium and Zoloft

before mood stabilizers and anxiolytics

and almost all the psychotropic drugs, but not before thorazine,

which the suicide O’Laughlin called “handcuffs for the mind.”

On Whitman’s “To a Locomotive in Winter”

Spring 2005 | Essays

While Wordsworth and Crane express differing levels of anxiety about the relationship of poetry to the materiality of the industrial and modern eras, Whitman expresses none. “I will make the poems from materials,” he writes in “Starting from Paumanok,” “for I think they are to be the most spiritual poems.” Instead of reserving the sublime for Baillie’s “Vast objects,” Whitman argues for a sublime of “objects gross” that are “one” with “the unseen soul” (“A Song for Occupations”). In Wordsworth it is rare to come upon steamships, viaducts, and railways. And in Crane we find them used strategically. But in Whitman they are common and ordinary. He catalogs things, places, occupations, tools, machines, and all manner of modern objects the way Homer lists ships and warriors or the Bible tribes. From “Song of Myself” to “Song of the Broad Axe” and “A Song for Occupations,” Whitman “peruse[s] manifold objects” and finds that no two are “alike, and everyone good, / The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good” (“Song of Myself”). 

On Translating Medea

The story of Medea is one of the best known from ancient Greece and the play is one of the most widely translated Greek tragedies. As a result readers come to Medea knowing in some detail what will happen. Unlike other Greek tragedies there are no st [...]