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Photo by Steve Trost
You haven’t heard of Erika Meitner. She’s a poet—and she’s still alive. Only the rarest of poets, illuminated by the random spotlight of history, and respectably dead, have recognizable names to us. These are the rules of 21st century fine-art culture, and this is our curse: poetry is the caviar of language, too rich for the common fellow, apparently.
Anyway… Meitner’s talent is really something, and you should spend an otherwise unremarkable Monday night being dazzled by her at River Styx at Duff’s Reading Series.
Let us to explore her grooviness:
In “Campaign Speech,” a sly meeting of campaign speech and existential lament, she offers, in a voice of mock-rhetoric, the funny zinger:
“There are those who say accidents like the [Ford] Pinto are unavoidable.”
In “May the World to Come Be Neon, Be Water," there is more dry humor:
“I am the only one awake when the neighbor backs his car into his own garage door.”
On a more somber note, in “Untitled [and the moon once it stopped was sleeping]” (), she contrasts the wildness of the wind with the implacability of the moon on a moody night in a round, moon-shaped concrete poem.
In “To Whom It May Concern,” the beleaguered narrator wishes to recuse herself from the officious daily B.S. with which we all contend, pleading that:
“I'd rather be reading
the story about the elephant crouching in the corner trying not to be noticed by the zookeeper's wife in her ruffled sleep cap to my son.”
In “The Book of Dissolution,” the speaker wanders through the post-apocalyptic wreck of a landscape of demolished homes in Detroit, and finds a kind of haunting elegance in the wastes:
“The burn scars on cement where the
scrappers torched the last bits of plastic off
copper wire spell out the code that reveals what
the world will look like when we’re gone.”
“Preventing Teen Cough Medicine Abuse” is a minor masterwork which reads as if it were written under the influence of “dextromethorphan.”
In the cleverly named “Rubber,” she conflates the things she does not know or understand about her own body with the things she does not know or understand about her car. The similarities are drawn sharply when a flat tire happens at the same time as another accident -- the need for a “morning-after” pill.
And similarly, in "Poem With/out a Face," she captures something elegiac about the one-night stands that litter each of our histories, as she confesses, in regards to two of her own hook-ups:
“I remember exactly what both of their faces felt like under my fingertips in the dark or maybe I don’t.”
You should read more poetry—we all should. Maybe go here and click around for like, ten minutes and see what happens.