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Ideal Cities: Poems (National Poetry Series)
Ideal Cities: Poems (National Poetry Series)
Erika Meitner
Harper Perennial, 2010
86 pp., 13.99

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Lauren Winner

Book Notes

From the National Poetry Series, a new book by Erika Meitner.

Erika Meitner's new book, Ideal Cities, is out, and I think I am in love. I was a little worried, as you always are when a friend publishes a book. What if you don't like it? What if you can't even make it through? What if you have to lie to her, or evade? Here the problem is the opposite—how not to gush so enthusiastically that she thinks you are laying it on thick as marmalade precisely because you didn't actually read it, precisely because you couldn't make it through, when in fact it is just that you are in love.

The voice of these poems is mature, wise, assured, precise, varied, and surprising. I confess that the author and I share some preoccupations, among them home and place, not to mention religion (in a physician's waiting room, the narrator is subjected to polite evangelism and stories of the rapture: "this waiting room is endless … aren't we all addicts to something like the rapture / which will bring both blessing and sorrow?"); and I appreciate Meitner's eye for evocative scraps of Americana, the "vintage ads" that "promised marital bliss via gifts of transparent ovenwear." The images are specific, quotidian—a heart that is a Pyrex bowl, a fishing village, a solo chess player. Mostly, I like the way the narrators of these poems see the world. I want to see with them, longer.

Lauren Winner is an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School. For the academic year 2010-11, she is a visiting fellow at Yale's Institute for Sacred Music. Her book A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican Religious Practice in the Elite Households of Eighteenth-Century Virginia is coming soon from Yale University Press.

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