Bert Meyers poet : 1928 - 1979
Bert Meyers: On the Life and Work
of an American Master
June California reading schedule
(click on event for info)
©Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos
Comments on Bert Meyers
“Reading Bert Meyers cleanses the senses. His poems intimately connect a reader to the physical gifts of the earth, to truly being an animal, and to the living, trembling moment. When I need to ground myself, touch the essential natures of things, I read Bert Meyers.”
“Bert Meyers is an American original—a brilliant poet whose use of tone and figurative language was so emotive, intelligent and nuanced, it became inimitable, became its own unique perspective on our world. I wouldn’t be surprised if mid-21st century scholars announce that in Bert Meyers we have overlooked the best poet of his generation. Immense gratitude to Dana Levin and Adele Williams for this rediscovery.”
"The spines of all my treasured, old, slim Bert Meyers books are broken, pages slipping out, because I carried those books everywhere I went for decades. They were my wellsprings.
Bert Meyers, whom I never met or knew much about in earlier days - wrote poems that felt organically essential, utterly fresh, fascinating, haunting - indelible.
They carried deep grief as well as delight. I adored them all.
The power of his "new combinations" of nouns and verbs held a light and energy which could help transform the work of young writers. His power was contagious.
I probably wrote the name "Bert Meyers" on a thousand old-style blackboards, in more than one country. I needed him.
It gives me the greatest joy to know his wonderful work is being released in a
new edition so it will gain even more fans."
Naomi Shihab Nye
“Many are the things that slip by in the harsh velocity of the American experience. The work of Bert Meyers might have been one of them if we didn’t have the timeless vitality of his words on paper. Bert Meyers was a poet and his poetry is perhaps some of the best written in America after WWII. That poetry possesses the combination of delicacy and grit that informs the national lyricism at its best.
Bert Meyers was genuine and would not submit to trends. He couldn’t submit to anything other than the music in his ears and that music’s demand that he lift his hand and push lyric melody onto paper, word by word, rhythm by rhythm, line by line. We are quite lucky that his work, in all its complexity, its mournful melancholy, and its unexpected celebration of living right on the lip of existence, didn’t get lost in the howl and the speed of our cultural juggernaut.”
“Almost from the beginning, Bert Meyers’ lyrical poems had a quality of tenderness and tough-minded coldness that made them unique. At a time when so many lyric poems end by vaporizing themselves into some form of solipsism, Bert’s typical work builds strength and clarity through a magical “energy-exchange system” where social images pick up power – and light – from natural ones.
‘bales of hay – cartons
Of sunlight fading in a field.’
Bert began as a worker and revolutionary, and the world of labor – of making and of things made – was a basic part of his consciousness. He loved hands and what they could do. In an early poem written when he was a frame-maker for artists, he speaks of ‘driving home / the proud cattle of my hands’ – finishing the day’s work. His own ‘hand’ in a poem is unmistakable. He made and left us many wonderful gifts.”
The most exquisite poetry by any of the L.A.-born poets was written by Bert Meyers (1928-1979), a colossal talent... He brought a remarkably precise physicality to poems of an unusual spiritual dimension, poems unlike anything else spawned by the ‘50s. And he is also capable of the most tender celebrations.
“Bert Meyers leaves, as he departs, the clear edge of his insight, at once palpable and transparent, impressed in these poems. Their purity bodes well for the repose of his spirit. The death of the poet is a heart appeased.”
“Like so many other poets of the sixties and seventies, I had been enormously impressed by Bert’s poems for their briefness and delicacy. They were built like small precision instruments, and relied on his unique, mesmerising images and subtle rhythms. In poem after poem he showed the world anew, making the reader see it in fresh ways. As far as I was concerned, his stripping away of rhetoric in favor of an at times metaphysical and always socially engaged poetry, which was expressed almost completely through images, had gone several steps beyond the much-lauded work of James Wright.”
“When I read Bert Meyers’ work for the first time, I felt the joy of discovering a new resource. I found on every page something that gave me pleasure, that spoke to my mind, my senses, my imagination. I feel Meyers can be called great because of the extraordinary intensity and perfection of his poems and the consistency with which he illumined what he experienced, bodying it forth in images that enable readers to share his vision and thereby extend the boundaries of their own lives.
Bert Meyers’ death has deprived us of one of the best poets of our time.”
“There is a piercing intelligence in Bert Meyers’ poems and his best poems contain through that intelligence a deeply satisfying calm.”
“… wry praise for the ordinary world and its wonders, a great precision in metaphor, a vision entirely his own; focused, loving, intense … Bert Meyers was one of the real ones, and he still is.”
“Bert Meyers wrote with a dazzling exactness. His short spare musical lines have no trace of rhetoric, of padding. He looked so closely and with such a fierce and chaste simplicity at the ordinary things of life that each metaphor surprises because it rings true and inevitable yet is never cliché. The crystal of this voice still resonates.”
“Bert Meyers belonged to no school or coterie and had no use for fashion. He was that rarest of creatures, a pure lyric poet. His poems are very much what he was–gentle, cantankerous, reflective, passionate and wise. The body dies, but Bert’s voice goes on living in the language he loved and served so well.”
“He worked with his hands all his life; this kept him from being an academic poet.
His hands set type, swung shovels, crates, worked paint brushes and gold. Ten years as a picture-framer, his hands smoothed gold leaf into frames. I’ve always thought that appropriate for someone who wrote the way he did. For over thirty years his hands set words carefully into white space, some of the images so delicate he’d hold them with tweezers and blow them into place, like gold leaf.”
“The electricity from the podium could be felt almost palpably. Here was someone speaking a language that was not only simple and comprehensible, but that was beautiful and deeply felt. It was not a reading, it was a happening that deeply involved everyone present.”
“Reading Windowsills is like opening my eyes. What I see is the world given to me, years ago, by the first poems I ever loved. To see clearly is a virtue, and to name the world is a power. Bert Meyers had both gifts; word and image. And then he has the loveliest gift to all; the ability to set them afloat on ‘the joyful sound, of the invisible sea’.”
“Bert Meyers wrote poems of such concise and imagistic clarity that they are almost objects, talismans, pure coinages of perception. Their excellences are unique, and their only defects is that, because of Bert Meyers’ death, there are too few.”
“I still remember my sense of pleasure and immediate recognition when I first read Bert’s poems … the freshness and originality of his images, and the compassion that lay behind them.”
“Bert Meyers’ work … is simple and straightforward, lyrical, sorrowful, with at times too much a note of regret, but always possessed of a verbal and linguistic force of the first magnitude.”