Poet Laureate Peter Meinke wins 2017 Meredith Award for Poetry

The St. Pete-based Florida Poet Laureate wins an unsolicited award.

click to enlarge Peter Meinke - Cathy Salustri
Cathy Salustri
Peter Meinke

Peter Meinke is all smiles when he talks about William Meredith. It's not because he's just learned he's about to receive the 2017 William Meredith Award for Poetry, either — it's because he and Jeanne truly enjoyed spending time with Meredith and his partner, Richard Harteis.

"We didn't meet up much over the years, but we were good friends." Peter Meinke said of Meredith, who died in 2007. They would see each other in DC; Meinke had him down to Eckerd College to read. Their paths crossed from time to time. When he heard of the William Meredith Award, he thought it was a good idea. William Meredith was the United States Poet Laureate (although at the time it was called Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress and later changed retroactively to United States Poet Laureate) in 1979.

"I thought, that's nice," he said.

Then he received a phone call from Meredith's partner, Richard Harteis, who told Peter and Jeanne the award committee had selected Meinke foe the award. The committee wanted to publish a book of Meinke's poetry.

He told them he didn't have a book of unpublished poems. He did offer them his Poet's Notebook, an every-other-week column published in Creative Loafing.

"And they loved it. They're a bunch of liberals up there," he laughs. He sent them a copy of Truth and Affection, a collection of his Poet's Notebooks from 2007- July, 2013. The Poet's Press will publish a volume of Poet's Notebooks from August 2013 through 2016, 85 Poet's Notebooks in all. Each one starts with part of a poem and ends with part of a poem and includes a line drawing from Jeanne Meinke, Peter Meinke's wife. 

"Completely by accident," Meinke says, "the first poem that appeared [in Poet's Notebook] that was not part of Truth and Affection is a poem by William Meredith." With that column, Jeanne Meinke drew a picture of Meredith, after his stroke. Harteiss had that drawing tattooed on his shoulder. It  may appear as the cover of the book, tentatively titled To Start With, Feel Fortunate

"It's a way of looking at things that William Meredith had," Meinke says. "I like his poetry and I liked him as a person."

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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