Meyer inspired to write poetry by good stories, lyrics, family of talkers

NEW ULM – Award-winning poet Richard Meyer is ready to rattle your bones and get your blood flowing when he shares his works at a reading at the New Ulm Public Library on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Meyer, a retired English and humanities teacher, will read from “Orbital Paths,” a recently published book that features poems he penned over a span of four decades.

“Poetry is something very elemental and universal,” Meyer said. “Poetry is in our blood and bones.”

Meyer, now 64, hails from “a family of talkers,” he said. Lively discussions at the dinner table with his seven siblings and parents while growing up in Mankato sparked his interest in crafting words into poems for the common people and propelled him into a teaching career.

He began teaching at New Ulm High School in 1974 and continued there until he was a victim of budget cuts in 1988. His teaching career then took him to Mankato East for 18 years until he retired.

“I loved New Ulm,” Meyer said. ” I would have stayed if I hadn’t been laid off.”

He is thrilled to have the opportunity to read his poetry in New Ulm. “I hope to see familiar faces and old friends,” he said.

In retirement, Meyer writes new poems and fusses with his earlier works. Themes of love, death and nature permeate his poetry -themes that are universal in all poetry, he said.

“Sometimes a poem has a long genesis,” Meyer said. “Fieldstone” is such a poem.

“Fieldstone,” a six-line poem that Meyer first drafted nearly 40 years ago, won the Robert Frost Farm Prize in 2012.

It is a poem about Meyer’s observations of the upheaval of stones from the fields each spring – forced to the surface by the departure of the frost.

As he drove on Highway 68 between New Ulm and Mankato, he noticed one or two very large boulders in what appeared to be land more like a section of scrub prairie than tillable acreage

“Seeing those huge glacial stones made me think of farmers and the stones they sometimes have to clear from their fields,” he said.

Meyer crafted “The Autumn Way” as an elegy to his mother Gert, and the poem became part of her funeral service. He finished the poem several years before her death in 2007 and shared it with her. “She loved it,” he said.

“The Autumn Way” won the 2014 String Poet Prize. His poem “La Gioconda” was chosen as a top sonnet in the 2013 Great River Shakespeare Festival.

The award-winning poems are among Meyer’s personal favorites.

He considers his poems his children. “Some are witty, some are well-mannered; some are well-behaved; some are rough around the edges,” he said.

Gert Meyer heavily influenced her son’s love of poetry. She spoke in metaphors, and she stored hundreds of poems and song lyrics in her memory. She sprinkled her conversations with colorful language and recitations from those poems and lyrics. Gert was also a storyteller.

“I had poetry in my ear as well as good stories,” Meyer said.

Lyrics also influenced Meyer’s writings. In his youth, he absorbed the lyrics of rock ‘n’ roll songs of the Beatles and other musicians. “Lyrics are really poetry,” he said.

Meyer began serious poetry writing in his 20s. Virtually all of his early works “were tossed long ago. It was practice – an apprentice finding the right skills,” he said.

Getting his poetry published proved difficult, Meyer said. However, a Facebook connection with Amy Malecki Rogers, a former student, made publication possible.

Rogers, a 1987 graduate of NUHS who excelled academically and was one of the Meyer’s brightest students, earned a Ph.D. and an M.D. She then decided to write science fiction thrillers. She owns ScienceThrillers Media publishing company.

Rogers offered to publish a collection of Meyer’s poetry.

“Orbital Paths” was released in early October. It is now available at Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.

The poetry collection has been well received by other writers. Among them is Nicole Helget, who has ties to the Sleepy Eye area and is author of “The Summer of Ordinary Ways” and “Stillwater.” She now teaches college courses.

Helget wrote:

Meyer “sees everything and he selects (or creates) the perfect word for the exact sentiment he means to convey. … Meyer is a siren. Just try to put this collection down.”

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The poetry reading begins at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, at the New Ulm Public Library.

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