. . . I like poetry that is accessible—I don't mean greeting-card verse
poetry, but clear poetry, which is hard to write.*
~ Peter Meinke
Peter Meinke is Florida's new Poet Laureate. Florida's governor announced the appointment of the state's fourth incumbent June 15.
The first Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, Florida, where he has been a resident since 1966 (he was born in Brooklyn, New York), Meinke succeeds the late Edmund Skellings, who served from 1980 until his death in 2012. Meinke's term begins officially June 26. He is only the fourth poet to serve; in addition to Skellings, Franklin N. Wood and Vivian Laramore Rader held the position. As of July 1, 2014, Skellings and Wood were each designated a State Poet Laureate Emeritus; Laramore Rader was designated State Poet Laureate Emerita.
Formerly a life-time appointment, the position now is for four years, the result of a 2014 legislative revision (2014 Florida Statutes, Title XVIII, Chapter 263, Section 2863). It is honorary and unpaid. The only specific requirements of the Poet Laureate are to "[engage] in outreach and mentoring for the benefit of schools and communities throughout the state and [to perform] readings of his of her own poetry, as requested."
Meinke is active on the poetry-reading circuit and told one interviewer that in addition to reading in many libraries and schools, as well as writers' conferences and literary festivals, he's held workshops in homeless shelters. CBS Tampa named Meinke one of the "Best Local Poets in Tampa Bay".
* * * * *
. . . any style that is handled with flare and authority
is fine by me. I like clarity and intelligence. . . .**
Peter Meinke is the author of 18 poetry collections and chapbooks. Among his most recent poetry books are Lucky Bones (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series, 2014), The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series, 2006), and Zinc Fingers: Poems A to Z (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series, 2000). Some of his other titles, which remain in print, are Scars (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series, 1996) and Liquid Paper: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series, 1991). Meinke's debut collection, which is still in print, is The Night Train and the Golden Bird (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series 1977).
Meinke's chapbooks include the 35th Anniversary Edition of Lines from Neuchatel (University of Tampa Press, 2009) and Greatest Hits, 1964-2000.
In addition to poetry, Meinke writes fiction, including short stories and children's books, and nonfiction. The latter include The Shape of Poetry: A Practical Guide to Writing and Reading Poems (University of Tampa Press, New/Rev. Ed., 2012), Truth and Affection: The 'Poet's Notebook' Columns from Creative Loafing (University of Tampa Press, 2013), and the still-in-print Howard Nemerov — American Writers 70: University of Minnesota Pamplets on American Writers (University of Minnesota Press, Minnesota Archive Editions, 1968). Note: Brief descriptions of all of Meinke's titles are available, with hyperlinks, in the Books section of the poet's Website. Also see the About page.
Nature, family, and daily life figure frequently as subjects in Meinke's poetry, along with politics and anything else that catches his attention. Among the variety of traditional forms Meinke uses are sonnets, villanelles, and pantoums. Meinke's poems are lyrical; many are humorous. His most recent work typically has no punctuation. In an interview with Anita Malhotra, Meinke characterized his poems this way: "They vary widely, but there's always some humor lurking nearby. It's basically a dark view of the world, but a reasonably cheerful take on it. Politics is in there, and anti-war poems, though I try not to sound like I'm preaching. There are lots of poems about family. . . I'm not a flashy poet, and more of a neighborhood poet than a state or Southern poet." He also told Malhotra that he does "a lot of rewriting", primarily for sound.
The following are excerpts from several of Meinke's poems:
The visible world is full of elephant tusks
the music of a silent god
the upward thrust & curve of
natural power, which we grid down
into dice and key, earring and toothpick
to capture the spirit of elephant. [. . .]
~ from "Elephant Tusks" in Trying to Surprise God (1981), page 32
In the morning, in December
they lean like flares over our brick pathway,
vessels of brilliant energy,
their bright explosions enclosed by the frailest membrane:
they tremble with their holy repressions. [. . .]
~ from "Azaleas" in Trying to Surprise God (1981), pages 21-22
Poems and other work by Meinke have appeared in American Poetry Monthly, The Antioch Review, Atlanta Review, The Atlantic, Eckerd Review, The Georgia Review, Greensboro Review, Kalliope, Lightning Key Review, The Literary Review, Los Angeles Times, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Quarterly, Plume, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Tennessee Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and scores of other literary periodicals and journals.
Meinke's short story "The Ponoes" is anthologized in The Flannery O'Connor Award: Selected Stories (University of Georgia Press, 1993), edited by Charles East. (Note: The story can be found in a selection from the anthology at GoogleBooks.) Other work is found in The Best of The Atlantic: A Treasury of Short Stories (Atlantic Monthly, 1988).
Among the honors accorded Meinke are a Lifetime Achievement Award in Letters from SunLitFestival (2015), a Fulbright Fellowship (1978-1979), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1989, 1974), three Poetry Society of America prizes, two O'Henry Awards, an Olivet Prize, a Paumanok Poetry Award, an Award of Excellence from Southeastern Library Association (2009), a PEN Award (1984), a Southeast Booksellers Association Award for "Best Book of Poetry of the Year" (2001), and a Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction (1986), awarded for his debut collection of short stories The Piano Tuner (University of Georgia Press, 1994). The latter also received the LSU/Southern Review Award (1986). His chapbook Campocorto won the 1995 Sow's Ear Chapbook Competition (competition winners page). YellowJacket Press has named a chapbook contest after him.
Meinke is professor emeritus of Eckerd College (the college established The Peter Meinke Endowed Professorship in Creative Writing), and as a visiting writer or poet- or writer-in-residence has taught at numerous higher education institutions in the United States and abroad. He has been director of The Writing Workshop at Eckerd College and taught in the college's annual Writers in Paradise Writers Conference.
Artist Jeanne Clark Meinke, Meinke's wife, illustrates many of the poet's books. She has published a collection of drawings, Lines from Wildwood Lane (University of Tampa Press, 2010).
Photo Credit: Jeanne Meinke
All Poetry Excerpts © Peter Meinke
* Quoted from Jeff Kunerth Feature Article (See link below.)
** Quoted from Lissette Vega Interview (See link below.)
"Peter Meinke Named Florida's Poet Laureate", Tampa Bay Newswire, June 16, 2015
Jon Wilson, "St. Pete Resident Named Florida Poet Laureate", Tampa Bay Reporter, June 16, 2015
Janelle Irwin, "Longtime Eckerd College Professor Named Florida Poet Laureate", SaintPeters Blog, June 16, 2015
Colette Bancroft, "St. Petersburg's Peter Meinke Named Poet Laureate of Florida", Tampa Bay Times, June 15, 2015
David Warner, "Peter Meinke Named Florida Poet Laureate", Creative Loafing Tampa, June 15, 2015
Peter Meinke Profiles at Academy of American Poets, Eckerd College, Florida Authors, Florida Poets Project, The Poetry Foundation, Saw Palm
Peter Meinke Poetry Online: "Lines from Neuchatel" (pdf) and "Easter in Neuchatel", Both at Peter Meinke Website; "What Wild-Eyed Murderer" and "The First Marriage", Both at Academy of American Poets; "Everything We Do" and "Uncle Jim", Both at The Writer's Almanac; "Supermarket" and "Atomic Pantoum", Both at Journal of Ideology, ISUS (pdf); "Night Watch on the Chesapeake" and "The Pin", Both at Virginia Quarterly Review Online; "Liquid Paper" at Los Angeles Times; "Skipping Stones" at Poetry Daily; "Apples", "Atomic Pantoum", "Azaleas", "Elephant Tusks", "Exodus with Children", "J", "M3", "Marine Forecast", "Mazzaroli's Cannon", "Playing Badminton: Sunday Afternoon 1968", "The Artist", "The Dead Tree", and "The Gift of the Magi", All at The Poetry Foundation; "The Poet, Trying to Surprise God" at Tampa Bay Newswire; "Cassandra in the Library", "Generalsis I (I-III)", "Habemus Papam", "Ars Longa, Vita Brevis", and "Habeus Corpus", All at University of Pittsburgh Press Page (pdf); "Carina", "Fern", "Ode to Our Checkbooks", and "Dream Analysis", All at Connotation Press Online; "Heartworld" at Lightning Key Review; "The First Marriage", "The Secret Code", and "Liquid Paper", All at Geocities Archive; "Uncle Jim" at Arthur Magazine; "Old Houses" and "Epitaph" at The Two Keys Press; "The Heart's Location" and "Advice for Our Son", "The Chattaway", "Lassing Park", and "Learning Italian" All at ArtsMania; "A Fable: The Floss-Silk Tree and the Philodendron" at Plume; "Advice to My Son" at Your Daily Poem
The poems "First Marriage" and "Advice to My Son" are found most frequently on the Internet.
Eckerd College, "Peter Meinke to be Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award", ThinkOutside News Center, March 3, 2015
Colette Bancroft, "St. Petersburgh Gets Its First Poet Laureate: Peter Meinke", Tampa Bay Times, May 13, 2009 Note: Helen Pruitt Wallace has been appointed to the three-year post, beginning January 1, 2016.
Eckerd College, "Eckerd Professor Emeritus of Literature Peter Meinke Named City of St. Petersburg's First Poet Laureate", ThinkOutside News Center, May 15, 2009
Patricia Lieb, "Peter Meike: The Man and the Works", Geocities Archive
Jeff Kunerth, "Peter Meinke — The Soul of a Poet", Orlando Sentinel, June 9, 1986
Peter Meinke's Poet's Notebook at Creative Loafing (Bi-Weekly Column)
Peter Meinke, "My Favorite Childhood Book", YouTube Video (2014) Note: There are a number of other recorded readings at YouTube, including a reading at Georgia State University (2007). See the sidebar for additional titles. Meinke also can be seen and heard reciting poetry in the video titled "The Florida Poets Project: Peter Meinke" at Vimeo.
Peter Meinke on FaceBook
Peter Meinke Poetry Prize on FaceBook (YellowJacket Press)
Dr. Gregory Byrd, "Form and Function: An Interview with Poets Peter Meinke and Denise Duhamel", Sandbox News (St. Petersburg College), February 6, 2013
Anita Malhotra, "Interview with Peter Meinke", ArtsMania, March 31, 2012 (This is an excellent interview, covering a lot of ground, from Meinke's childhood experience of poetry, to Twitter poetry, to inspiration for poems, to teaching poetry, to the role of the poet in society today.)
James Plath, "An Interview with Peter Meinke", Clockwatch Review, July 1990
Lissette Vega, "Peter Meinke: An American Poet" (Interview), WordSmitten
Ian Vogt, Review of Lucky Bones at Coal Hill Review, December 2014
Dennis Daly, Review of Lucky Bones at Fox Chase Review Blog, November 2014
Peter Meinke's Greatest Hits 1964-2000 at GoogleBooks