Visiting Poets

Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner

Erika Meitner is the quintessential 21st-century storyteller bearing witness...a social critic with heart, humor, and an incomparable voice,” writes poet Carmen Gimenez Smith; “Holy Moly Carry Me is an urgent document of our complex ties with the past, and the dangers of letting histories, private and public, repeat themselves.” Meitner is the author of five poetry collections, including Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA Editions, 2018) — nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award for Poetry— and Ideal Cities (Harper Perennial, 2010), a winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series competition. Meitner is currently a Professor of English in the MFA program in Creative Writing and the undergraduate Creative Writing Program at Virginia Tech. 

The winner and finalists of the 15th annual Poetry Prize for High School Girls in New England & New York (selected by Meitner) will open the evening’s program.

Erika Meitner reads with the High School Prize winners on Tuesday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. To register:


Select Poems

I am 43 and I just drove to CVS at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday
to buy a store-brand pregnancy test two sticks in a box
rung up by a clerk who looked like the human embodiment
of a Ken doll with his coiffed blond hair and red smock
even though I wished there was a tired older woman
at the register this once even though I am sure I am
not pregnant this missing my period is almost definitely
another trick of perimenopause along with the inexplicable
rage at all humans the insane sex drive and the blood that
when it comes overwhelms everything with two sons
already what would I do with a baby now even though
I spent four long years trying to have another I am done
have given away all the small clothes and plastic devices
that make noise just looking at toddlers leaves me exhausted
this would be a particularly cruel trick of nature the CVS
was empty there was no one in cosmetics or any aisle including
family planning which is mostly lube and condoms I didn’t
know Naturalamb was a thing “real skin-to-skin intimacy”
there’s just one small half of one shelf of pregnancy tests
and some say no/yes in case you don’t think you can read
blue or pink lines appearing in a circle my grandmother
was a nurse-midwife during the war in the Sosnowiec ghetto
her brother ten years younger a change-of-life child she called him
when she told me finally she had a brother when the archivists
came around for her testimony years after her brother was gassed
alongside her mother in Auschwitz years after my grandmother
euthanized her own daughter whom I was named for because
the SS were tossing babies from the windows of cattle cars
change-of-life child the name for a baby born to an older mother
past forty I peed on so many sticks over so many years
gave myself scores of injections took pills went under anesthesia
and knives since there’s an unspoken mandate to procreate
when all your people your family were actually slaughtered
I gave one son my grandmother’s brother’s name and
the other was called King Myson by his birth mother
on the page of notes we got that she filled out before she
gave him up it took me an hour of staring at the form
before I realized it was my son she was claiming him
before she let him go and I think the morning will bring
nothing just one blue line but right now it is still night
and I am sitting in my car under the parking lot lights
which are bright and static like me and beyond them
there’s the clerk in the red smock locking the doors

— originally published in The Believer (2021) 

If you are fearful, America,
I can tell you I am too. I worry
about my body—the way, lately,
it marches itself over curbs and
barriers, lingers in the streets
as a form of resistance.

The streets belong to no one
and everyone and are a guide
for motion, but we are so numerous
there is no pavement left on which to
release our bodies, like a river spilling
over a dam, so instead my body
thrums next to yours in place.

When we stop traffic or hold
hands to form a human chain,
we become a neon OPEN sign
singing into the night miles from
home when the only home left
is memory, your body, my body,
our scars, the dark punctuated
with the dying light of stars.

—from Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA Editions Ltd., 2018)

Poetry Center Reading

Spring 2021