Each poem is striking, and many are immediate favorites, all composed of vigor, sentiment, the high idealism and the self-humor that are particularly ours, and dished up in the twang and slang of American plainsong.
The Contracted World includes representative poems from four of Peter Meinke's previous collections. In poems that show us what it is like to grow up in America, love, nature, cities, sports, war, and peace are filtered through the imagination and verbal skills of one of our brightest poets. The new poems experiment with form, and address a life that is shrinking in specific ways: the poet is aging, the world is getting smaller, our post-9/11 freedoms are eroding, and our choices seem fewer and less attractive. Despite feelings of anger and loneliness, the narrator speaks to us in a personal, accessible, and often humorous voice.
Meinke hits his real stride, roving with eager curiosity and honesty from free verse to well-wrought sonnets and back again. . . . Meinke's control over his medium is remarkably secure. He can push traditional verse toward doggerel without endangering his honesty.
If you are one of the millions who is bored, perplexed or overawed by contemporary poetry, do the muse, and yourself, a favor: buy and read Peter Meinke's Night Watch on the Chesapeake. . . . His strong instinct for significance and an ear always cocked for the clang and splash and euphony of language . . . sounds spoken, fresh, not 'poetic.'
There is a little of the Ancient Mariner in the tenacity and urgency with which Peter Meinke addresses his readers. These poems get hold of us by the coat lapels and when they release us we are delighted, shaken, and considerably wiser.
[Meinke's poems] never omit the music of language and a real search for meaning; and while by turns playful, satirical and paradoxical, they never undercut their honesty by descending into nonsense.
Peter Meinke is emeritus professor of creative writing at Eckerd College. He has published numerous books of poetry, including Scars, Zinc Fingers, Liquid Paper, and The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems. Meinke is the recipient of many awards, including the Olivet Prize, the Paumanok Award, three Poetry Society of America Awards, the Flannery OÕConnor Award, and two NEA Fellowships. In 2009 he was appointed the first Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, Florida.