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Peter Meinke

Peter Meinke was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1932. After receiving a BA from Hamilton College in 1955, he spent two years in the United States Army and two years teaching English at a high school in New Jersey. He then attended the University of Michigan, receiving his MA in literature in 1961, and the University of Minnesota, receiving his PhD in 1965.

Meinke published his first poetry collection, The Night Train & the Golden Bird (University of Pittsburgh Press), in 1976. His other books of poetry include Lucky Bones (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), and Zinc Fingers (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000).

Meinke is also the author of two short story collections, including The Piano Tuner (University of Georgia Press, 1986), winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction in 1986. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Program.

In 2015 Meinke was appointed to a four-year term as the poet laureate of Florida, after serving as the first poet laureate of St. Petersburg, Florida. He serves as a professor emeritus at Eckerd College after directing the Writing Workshop there for many years. He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Selected Bibliography

Lucky Bones (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
Lines from Neuchâtel (University of Tampa Press, 2009)
The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006)
Zinc Fingers (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000)
The Night Train & the Golden Bird (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976)

The Piano Tuner (University of Georgia Press, 1986)

By This Poet


What Wild-Eyed Murderer

We shouldn’t worship suffering: the world’s
a spinning rack where suffering indicates
all goes well we’re alive and not curled
up in the black hushhush death dictates
as its first condition: no screaming there

We crown ourselves with thorns of past
transgressions Sharp spears of deed spare
no rib of pain: around the cross crashed
common lightning usual blood Who earns
our reverence should break both cross and crutch
in the face of suffering: while the rack turns

and tightens they’ll smile at the sense of touch
Suffering’s too common to be worth
anything joy too rare to be priced
The saints we search for will embrace the earth:
what wild-eyed murderer suffers less than Christ?

The First Marriage

for Gretchen and Herb: June 15, 1991

imagine the very first marriage a girl
and boy trembling with some inchoate
need for ceremony a desire for witness:
inventing formality like a wheel or a hoe

in a lost language in a clearing too far from here
a prophet or a prophetess intoned to the lovers
who knelt with their hearts cresting
like the unnamed ocean thinking This is true

thinking they will never be alone again
though planets slip their tracks and fish
desert the sea repeating those magic sounds
meaning I do on this stone below
this tree before these friends yes in body
and word my darkdream my sunsong yes I do I do