Author of four poetry books and professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Erika Meitner read many of her poems in the College Union during All-College Hour on Wednesday Oct. 29. Her newest book Copia was released on Sept. 9. Meitner began by reciting one of her poems. This poem was written as an ode to a blanket called the “miracle blanket,” which she received after giving birth to her son seven years ago.
Meitner, who spoke to a room approximately half-full with both faculty and students, explained how she gets inspiration for her work from numerous sources, including personal experiences, pictures and pamphlets found in stores.
She read 10 of her poems overall, with pieces from all of her four books. She focused mostly, however, on pieces from Copia, which included a section of documentary-style poems about the city of Detroit.
“One of the crazy things about the project is that I was actually commissioned in the way that a journalist is commissioned to go to the city of Detroit and write about the city, the entire city, in verse,” Meitner said.
What was weird about this project, she said, was that she had never been to Detroit and knew no one who lived there. This didn’t deter her enthusiasm towards the project though, as Detroit had recently been a place of interest for her.
“I had been writing poems off of photographs of abandoned buildings in Detroit for a few years before I was commissioned with the project,” she said.
Throughout the reading, she experienced numerous microphone issues, some even causing her to stop reciting her poems in order to switch microphones. She took all these setbacks with a smile, continuing to speak as if she was faced without any problems.
Meitner’s other works include the poetry books Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls, Ideal Cities and Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore.
Another poem she read was about Wal-Mart, which she wrote in an effort to challenge herself.
“What’s the most un-poetic place in America? I think Wal-Mart was in the top 10, so I decided I was going to write some Wal-Mart poems,” Meitner said.
For her final poem, she asked the audience if they would rather hear a poem about football or Niagara Falls. After the audience was unable to come to a consensus, Meitner read both.
Following the completion of her readings in which she described her inspiration for each poem before reciting it, Meitner hosted a question and answer section. Following this, she sold copies of Copia, which she signed for those who purchased them.