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MEINKE, PETER (1932- ) Peter Meinke is sometimes associated with the new formalism movement of the 1980s but is a practitioner of both formal and free verse poetry (see prosody and free verse): "I have a general theory that every poem has its ideal shape, whether free verse or formal," he says (58). Meinke's formal verse often feels, at first reading or hearing, like free verse, and his free verse often feels formal, if misleadingly conversational. His later poems continue an early use of space and line breaks in place of standard punctuation.
Meinke was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and has lived in Florida since 1966. Among his many awards are the Olivet National Sonnet Prize (1966), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1974 and 1989), Poetry Society of America awards (1976, 1984, and 1992), and the Southeast Booksellers Association Best Book of Poetry of the Year Award in 2001, for Zinc Fingers. His first book of poetry, The Night Train and the Golden Bird, was published in 1977. He was professor of literature and director of the writing workshop at Eckerd College from 1966 to 1993.
As Andy Solomon observes, Meinke forms "a constant web of interconnections between the most common events and objects and the lining of the human heart" (6D). Like Emily Dickinson, Meinke uses small and unassuming objects and moments to illuminate larger truths about our lives. In "Azaleas" (1978), he uses the flowers as "humorous examples / of human hubris" and as connections to the "deep wilderness of the soul."
Like the romantic poets, Meinke's work is easily accessible, but it also shares the intertextuality of modernist and postmodernist poets (see modernism). Titles and themes, such as "Advice to My Son" (1965), "In Gentler Times" (1966), and "Uncle Jim" (1986) invite even the most intimidated reader to read further. one does not need to understand the allusions in poems, such as "A Meditation on You and Wittgenstein" (2000), "Mendel's Laws" (1981), and "Scars" (1996), to appreciate the poems themselves, but those who recognize the references to art, science, and history find further depth in Meinke's poems. The first stanza of "Scars" introduces a boy who worships his father in a fairly ordinary way: "When I was young I longed for scars / like my father's"; these scars are "the best ... on the block." The last stanza compares the father to Laius, a character from the myth of Oedipus, a move that gives a classical twist to a simple story.
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