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Erika Meitner | Blacksburg, VA

When I was 15 I went on a road trip vacation with my best friend's family. I was at that age where I secretly wanted to run away from home, and my family was more than happy to lend me--in all my surly, self-consciously moody glory--to another family for a week. We drove from Long Island (NY) to Virginia Beach in their wood-paneled station wagon, which overheated at least twice on the way down. My friend and I spent most of our days down at the beach oogling cute surfers who were in town competing in the ECSC. On our last day there, all seven of us (she had a really big family) stumbled on a library book sale, where I bought a copy of Contemporary American Poetry (5th Edition), edited by A. Poulin, Jr., for 25 cents, and that anthology (as hokey as it sounds) changed my life. Before I took that book home and read it, I didn't know that there were actual living poets who were still writing poetry. The book had big photos and comprehensive biographies of all the poets included in it too, so after leafing through the book repeatedly, I felt like I knew these people--Louise Gluck, Ira Sadoff, Randall Jarrell, Stanley Kunitz, Gwendolyn Brooks--and they knew me: my sadness and dreams and internal monologues. I fell in love with Lucille Clifton, Robert Creeley, and Allen Ginsberg. I became a poet, and a poetry teacher. I often teach my students how to read poems via the latest edition of Contemporary American Poetry. My fourth and most recent book of poems, Copia, was published in 2014 by BOA Editions, which was founded by A. Poulin, Jr. 25 years later, I still have that anthology, held together with rubber bands and duct tape.


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