Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Books

Florida poet laureate Peter Meinke’s columns are prose to savor

If you think of poets as head-in-the-clouds types, unconcerned with the hurly-burly of real life, Peter Meinke will change your mind.

Meinke, Florida’s poet laureate, often celebrates the quotidian in his poetry, and does so in prose in his latest book, To Start With, Feel Fortunate.

The book is a collection of some of the columns he has written over the past five years for Creative Loafing, an alternative weekly published in Tampa.

Each short essay is sharply focused and framed with a couple of excerpts from poems, by other poets or by Meinke. Their subject matter ranges widely, from the personal — a family piano, memories of travel — to the political, from the local dearth of mass transport to the 2016 presidential race.

Meinke always has his poet’s ear for language well tuned, as in this exchange he reports in the essay "Feminism & Language":

"Man — ‘Well, whenever I say man or mankind, everyone knows that this includes woman, too.’

"Woman — ‘That’s what you think.’?"

The essays are thoughtful and humorous, and as carefully crafted as his verse, even when their subject seems everyday. Take "Our Lady of the Cherries," a column about a trip to the supermarket that turns into a meditation on the motif of cherries that becomes an analysis of the appeal of the tabloids at checkout: "There’s an un-American word to describe this: Schadenfreude, a German mouthful meaning the delight we feel when other lives aren’t a bowl of cherries."

Delicious.

To Start With, Feel Fortunate

By Peter Meinke

Poets’ Choice, 363 pages, $25

Times Festival of Reading

Peter Meinke will be a featured author at the 2017 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 11 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He will speak at 3 p.m. in the Poynter Institute Haiman Amphitheater.

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