Florida’s poet laureate marks National Poetry Month at Belvedere Library

The Sumter County Library system celebrated National Poetry Month by inviting world-class writer and current Poet Laureate of Florida Peter Meinke to speak and read his poetry. Sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Meinke spoke to a group at the Belvedere Library on Tuesday afternoon.

Poet Laureate of Florida Peter Meinke reads his work Tuesday at Belvedere Library.
Poet Laureate of Florida Peter Meinke reads his work Tuesday at Belvedere Library.

Meinke began his remarks noting that one generalization that can be made about poets is that they are avid readers and not just of poetry.  “To a poet coming to a library is like coming home.” He went on to say “I know that the eventual home for whatever I am writing is the library.” He described his home full of books as not so much a library as it is a used-book store. He then launched into his first poem of the afternoon titled, Book Shelf.

An affable speaker, Meinke shared many humorous stories about his life, family and travels while introducing his poems. He said a family favorite is the story about the time when, as a young teacher, married with four children, their refrigerator ceased to work. While trying to figure out how he would handle this unexpected expense, he received a letter informing him that his poem Mendel’s Laws had just been awarded the Gustav Davidson Memorial Award by the Poetry Society of America. The cash prize was $500 A new refrigerator was purchased and was forever known as the Gustav Davidson Memorial Refrigerator.

The poetry selected for this reading ranged from different styles of formal poetry to free verse.  He followed his reading by taking questions from the audience. Clearly there were many writers in the audience as the questions honed in on the craft of writing. Meinke suggested that anyone who wants to be a serious writer should write most days of the week at a scheduled time. He said there is nothing wrong with writing for fun, but if you want to be a serious writer you have to be serious about it to get there.

Meinke was selected in 2015 to be the Florida Poet Laureate. He travels extensively around the state doing readings, judging writing contests and promoting the appreciation of poetry. He will serve a three year term.

A Brooklyn native, he graduated from high school in New Jersey.  He graduated from Hamilton College in 1955, and after two years in the Army, he went to the University of Michigan, receiving his M.A. in Literature in 1961. The next five years he spent teaching at Hamline University, and finished his Ph.D. in English Literature in 1965 at the University of Minnesota.

In 1966, Meinke and his family moved to St. Petersburg to teach at Florida Presbyterian College, now Eckerd College. Meinke taught literature, and founded and directed the Writing Workshop, taking early retirement in 1993 in order to spend more time on his own writing. He has published over 20 books including fiction, non- fiction short stories and poetry. His first short story collection, The Piano Tuner, received the 1986 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. He has won many awards and prizes.

For more information on Meinke’s publications, books and awards, visit www.petermeinke.com.