Essay Stanzas, by Thomas Meyer
In Essay Stanzas, Thomas Meyer begins modestly by warning the reader: “This won’t amount to much.“ Each of the four poems in this book follow the imagination of the poet through his attempts to map out the human drama as it’s reflected in natural elements. Using myths and fairy tales, the Bible and Shakespeare, silver-screen starlets and ancient love songs, Meyer assembles his influences with true compassion, to aid him in pointing out the mysteries of the physical and emotional world around him. The poet’s wisdom shines through at every turn: “My shadow, I used to think / backed me up from behind. / Now I realize / I am my shadow’s human shield.”
Thomas Meyer is a living master. In Essay Stanzas, he innovates a form in three of the four poems that make up this magnificent book, compressing Orphic oracle, Faustian apocalypse, oneiric pageant, invented fable, wisdom literature, cryptic joke, disturbing aphorism, epigrammic wit and nervous ruin into sequences of thematically linked stanzas—on the weather, relationships, or enlightenment, for instance. The fourth poem, “Airs Waters Places,” reveals Meyer’s powers completely: a nuptial hymn in a high style as antique as it is absolutely present. No living master is so hidden as Meyer but there’s none whose poems we should read more urgently. “My heart / can’t help overhearing / what they say, and try as I might, I / can’t stop listening.” Peter O’Leary
Thomas Meyer lives in North Carolina, at the southernmost end of the Appalachians. His most recent books include Kintsugi (Flood Editions), translations of Daode Jing (Flood Editions), Beowulf (punctum), Easy Answers: The I Ching (BlazeVOX), and At Dusk Iridescent: A Gathering of Poems, 1972-1997 (Flood Editions).