by Bailey Blaker
The saying “write what you know” takes on a whole new meaning in the work of Anna George Meek. The award-winning poet recited selections from The Genome Rhapsodies, which tells the story of Meek’s personal struggle with loss and inheritance, on Monday afternoon in the bookstore.
The Genome Rhapsodies, released by Ashland Poetry Press last week, is Meek’s fourth book. The reading on Monday marked one of the first times Meek has read pieces from this collection. “What I hope the next 40 minutes will be is this sort of interesting magical recombinant exploration of a various number of things that we inherit,” Meek said.
Sarah McPeek ’19, one of the nine students in attendance, said Meek brought something extraordinary to the reading with her distinctive conversational reading style and charisma.
“She puts so much meaning into her poems in the way that she spoke them, in the way she used her voice,” McPeek said. “Even her face was very expressive, which gives the poem a whole new depth of meaning, and you could tell that what she was reading was very personal to her.”
Meek draws on life experiences in her poems. She dedicates several poems to describing the emotional turmoil she went through while caring for her father during his experience with dementia. Another poem is a tribute to the wedding dress that has been in her family for seven generations and that Meek wore on her own wedding day.
Throughout the collection Meek uses bricolage, a technique involving the creation of a work from a diverse range of things.
“It’s part invention, it’s part resourcefulness, it’s part desperation,” Meek said.
Meek’s bricolages contain content from old invention patents, letters from ex-boyfriends, personal journals and even Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter. Cutting these texts into pieces no longer than three consecutive words, Meek rearranges the fragments into something unrecognizable from the original texts. Meek had audience members assist in reading the poems aloud, alternating between phrases from the separate texts.
One poem, “Scaffolding” combines excerpts from the Wikipedia entry on scaffolding with passages from a love letter from an ex-boyfriend.
Kraig Davis ’18 found the combination of passages from these two texts particularly powerful, especially in the final lines of “Scaffolding” when Meek speaks about the temporary quality of her romantic relationship with her now-ex. “I just thought that it was just a really amazing juxtaposition,” Davis said.
Meek has been published in Poetry magazine and The Kenyon Review, among other national journals. She currently lives in Minneapolis with her husband Matthew Gladue ’93 and their daughter.