Peter Meinke Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Known primarily as a poet, Peter Meinke (meenk) has also published two collections of short stories, The Piano Tuner (1986), which won the Flannery O’Connor Award and the Louisiana State University/Southern Review Award, and Unheard Music (2007). A critical study, Howard Nemerov, appeared in 1968. Meinke also published a handbook for reading and writing poems, The Shape of Poetry: A Practical Guide to Writing Poetry, in 1999.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Peter Meinke has earned a reputation as one of the United States’ foremost poets of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Since the appearance of his first full collection in 1977, Meinke has skillfully balanced a variety of approaches, from free verse to traditional patterns—sonnets, sestinas, and villanelles as well as more arcane Continental forms. Meinke’s poems have been praised for their clarity and accessibility; by turns witty, darkly absorbing, wry, and philosophical, they resonate with readers often perplexed or browbeaten by contemporary American poetry. As Judith Hemschemeyer says, “Meinke is a skilled craftsman. He is especially adept at building to a strong ending or the ending that shies the poem into an unexpected, but perfect place.”

His many awards include the Olivet Prize, the Paumanok Award, three prizes from the Poetry Society of America—the Gustav Davidson Award (1976), the Lucille Medwick Award (1984), and the Emily Dickinson Award (1992)—two O. Henry Awards (1982, 1985), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1974, 1989), and the Provincetown Workshop Master Artist’s Fellowship (1995). He won the Sow’s Ear Chapbook Competition for Campocorto, the Southeast Booksellers Association Award for best poetry of the year (2001) for Zinc Fingers, and the Treasure of Tampa Bay Inaugural Award (2006). On May 14, 2009, he was proclaimed poet laureate of St. Petersburg, Florida.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Bancroft, Colette. Review of Unheard Music. St. Petersburg Times, May 4, 2008. Bancroft observes that a poet’s sensibility is at work in this collection of short stories with their spare and concentrated language and ironic twists of plot.

Byrd, Gregory. “Aesthetics at the Southernmost Point: Toward a Definition of Florida Poetry.” Mississippi Quarterly 52, no. 2 (Spring, 1999): 287-298. Although Meinke is a transplant to Florida, not a native, Byrd says it is “just as accurate to call him a Florida poet as it is a Southern poet or a New England poet.” Meinke is hard to pigeonhole regionally, as his writing reveals influences of the North and the South.

Jason, Philip K., ed. Masterplots II: Poetry Series. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2002. Contains an in-depth analysis of the poems “Advice to My Son” and “Sunday at the Apple Market.”

McDonough, Mike. “Kicking the Air with All Fours.” Review of The Contracted World. Coldfront Magazine, August 29, 2006. McDonough’s appreciation of Meinke as a longtime poet who escapes easy labels emphasizes the poet’s musical language and honest search for meaning.

Meinke, Peter. “Essay on ’Zinc Fingers.’” Literary Review 44, no. 1 (Fall, 2000): 507-509. This is an account of the origin of the title poem from Meinke’s collection. It involves a clear discussion of the process through several drafts, including such matters as syllabics, rhyme, and other devices of sound in the poem.

_______. “An Interview with Peter Meinke.” Interview by James Plath. Clockwatch Review 7 (1990/1991). Explores the relationship between fiction and poetry. Meinke’s own writing habits in each genre are discussed at length.

_______. “Peter Meinke.” http://www.petermeinke .com/home.html. Meinke’s Web site contains up-to-date biographical and bibliographical details.

Raisor, Philip. “The Dreams of Gulls and Robins.” Review of The Contracted World. Tar River Poetry Review 46, no. 2 (Spring, 2007). Raisor, a professor of English at Old Dominion University, where Meinke had held the Darden Chair in Creative Writing (2003-2005), and frequent reviewer of poetry, revels in Meinke’s language and reflections on the natural world.

Solomon, Andy. “Meinke Sheds Light Through Small Windows.” St. Petersburg Times, August 27, 2000. Considers Meinke’s “billowing national reputation” in light of the poet’s use of local subject matter. Solomon finds Meinke’s greatest strength in his ability to “forge that lightning connection” between ordinary things and the universal truths of human existence.