In her newest collection Useful Junk, Meitner explores memory, passion, and the various ways the body sees and is seen. These poems speak to us from parking lots, planes, dreamscapes, and the digital arena to affirm that we are made of every intimate moment we have ever had. Letter poems to a younger poet interspersed throughout the collection question desire itself and consider how digital technologies—sexting, Uber, selfies, Instagram—are reframing self-image and shifting the ratios of risk and reward in erotic encounters.
With dauntless vulnerability, Meitner taps into the metaphysical, the ekphrastic, the sensual, and the ordinary moments of life, remaining porous and open to the world, and always returning to the desires rooted deep within the self as a way forward in a damaged world. Boldly asserting that pleasure is a vital form of knowledge, Useful Junk reminds us that our selves are made real and beautiful by our embodied experiences, and that our desire is what keeps us alive.
we the loyal companionswe who are hyped about everythingwe who cross the thresholds of accountabilityour songs of praise sound like gunshotswe the supermarket shopperswe the leggings-as-pants wearerswe the shade throwersthe riven in nostalgia itinerantswho avoid our mail at all costswho remember all our exes unequivocallywe the hypervigilantwe who collect regular explanations of benefitswe who worry about food securitywe the invasive specieswe who dwell (mostly) in the bodywe who buried our long-suffering ancestorswhat would you like to cup in your hands again?water? a flame?
“Erika Meitner’s Useful Junk is composed of poems that are tragicomic-erotic-nostalgic with a twist of existential dread and a cherry of wit on top. Meitner’s speaker is most comfortable, or most able to endure her discomfort, when she’s on the move, in airport terminals and on subway platforms, between the domestic present tense and the erotic subterfuge of memory, sex, and poetry, between selfhood and the selfie. These daring poems exist at the intersection of usefulness and junk, where I, you, and we are tenuously twined ‘together like an interrobang’ until we drop anchor or disappear.”
—Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets
“There are so many layers of revelation embodied in Erika Meitner’s Useful Junk, and so many selves allowed to speak and shine here. This book is more than I thought a book could be. Sharp and funny and horny and transcendent and generous and human as hell, it is the very book of poems all my selves have been waiting for. ‘Listen,’ the poet says here, ‘we are making art because we want to inhabit everything / and not fear it.’ Done and done, Erika Meitner. Done and done.”
—Carrie Fountain, author of The Life
“Useful Junk is indisputably addictive, graced by the poet’s signature clutch on quirky, her dazzling and exhaustive range, and a dexterity with lyric that consistently upends the ordinary. An Erika Meitner poem is not only enviable art—it’s a loosening of what ties us to the ordinary. And the long-anticipated arrival of this new work is cause for unbridled celebration, a necessary reminder that great poetry always arrives just when we need it.”
— Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art