Meredith Martin

Poet and scholar Meredith Martin,’97, studied poetry at Smith with Karl Kirchwey and Annie Boutelle, and helped develop the proposal for a Poetry Center. She earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan, and teaches at Princeton University.

Martin specializes in Victorian, Edwardian, and Georgian poetry and prosody, historical prosody, 20th century lyric theory, and poetry of the First World War. She is also interested in poetry and/in public culture, the history of metrical education, and the place of rhythm in hip-hop culture. Her article “Therapeutic Measures: The Hydra and Wilfred Owen at Craiglockhart War Hospital” was published January 2007 in Modernism/Modernity.

Two book-length projects are underway. The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetic Form and English National Culture, 1880-1920 means to demonstrate how metrical form is a measure of important shifts in ideas about poetry and national culture, focusing in particular on British poetry from 1880-1920 as a formative period for the definition of Englishness. ‘I’m Nobody or I’m a Nation’: Colonial Metrical Education and the Formation of Poetic Identity” investigates common assumptions about meter’s hegemony and rhythm’s freedom in French and English post-colonial poetry.

At Princeton, Martin teaches 19th century poetry, the Literature of the Fin de Siecle, and is developing a new course with Professor Mendi Obadike about rhythm, meter, and community and/or national identification, tentatively titled “Rhythm Nation.”

See also Meredith Martin’s poem in the Alumnae Poetry section.

Poetry Center Reading:

Fall 2007

(with Elizabeth Alexander, Karl Kirchway & Abe Louise Young)

Apology Two

The more I read about you,

the more I want to take you apart.

Not like the other people do,

hoping they can find the right way

to re-arrange you so they feel whole again.

Not that. I want to leave you in pieces

and string them up around the room,

watch the light come in. Listen to the sounds

you might make when the wind comes.

I want to assume you were never whole,

assume I am returning you to your natural state –

pre-meaning, pre-relationship. Wouldn’t that be better?

The child before the mirror of his mother’s eyes,

The language before the language before the language.

Apology Five

If I look at you this way,
will you shimmer?
If I kneel down and look hard,
will you show me?

They think you’re hiding it,
But I think you’re just quiet.
The secret. The kernel.
The riddle. The pulse.

The what that makes you
what you are.

No one is wrong if there’s
No reply. The answer always
on the move. The secret
not a secret, changes
every moment. It has to.
It isn’t human. We give it a pulse,
And we take it away.

Does it threaten us?

When we think we see it
We want to believe.

Nothing Else

April will crowd a room so that all you can breathe

is lilac.

On the side of a road, trim or spilling over:


Outside, lilac pulls you to its scent like a bee.

Inside, you need this subtle excess.

Candid power. Caress.

Try, these days, to breathe nothing else.