In Copia, her fourth collection of poetry, Erika Meitner creates a tenuous balance, simultaneously reaching into the unknowable future and the immutable past. The reader feels this tense equilibrium immediately as the opening poems address bygone and potential lovers while acknowledging the speaker’s immediate and contented suburban domestic life. Meitner crafts a voice that proclaims with sincerity, “There are things that are broken beyond repair, / but my marriage isn’t one of them” and “I will not write you about my son, and if I mention / Eden, it would be to tell you that there’s no such thing. / That you are not the talking snake,” while admitting in the final line of her poem “Correspondence” that the missives between speaker and subject do not simply stop: “We go on like this for some time.” These poems unflinchingly stare down society’s uncomfortable and disquieting facets, making a hallmark of dragging them into inescapable, glaring neon light. “In the Corbin Walmart parking lot,” Meitner writes in the poem “Wal«Mart Supercenter,” “a woman with a small amount of cash / was arrested for getting in and out of trucks. A man stepped out of his car / in the Columbus Walmart parking lot, and shot himself. I get in the checkout line.” Juxtaposing a litany of crimes and injustices taking place in the shadow of Big Box America with the banality of purchasing “Pampers, tube socks, juice boxes, fruit” does not spare readers any horror; instead it implicates them along with the speaker. We are all encapsulated in this orange peel of an atmosphere together, Meitner reminds us in “Ars Poetica with Radio Apparatus, Toddler, & Ducks,” something worth remembering as the reader tours Detroit’s crumbling shell, the spectacle of “bring- / your-weapon-to-church-day,” and the holiday meals whose leftovers increase every year, recalling the dead and their absent appetites. Copia, as its title suggests, provides abundance—litanies of “expired gas station receipts, mall vapors, a half-used / tin of tattoo salve, all of Bayonne, New Jersey / mapped on your back in chalk” to be sieved and saved. Rather than filter and parse, it holds nothing in reserve and asks for an equal measure of openness from its reader, inviting participation and, perhaps, action.
BOA Editions, 2014