Ideal Cities (Erika Meitner)

Someone recommended Erika Meitner’s work to me, but didn’t mention a specific title. I chose this one because I liked the idea of poetry about cities, possibly even utopian cities, possibly even poetry about utopian cities that I could use with the endless array of dystopian novels I keep teaching in high school.

But no to that last one. These poems are not for high school students. They’re for everyone who has ever been between somewhere after high school graduation and before settling into / for being an adult and have had three dollars and eighteen cents and has spent over 20 minutes in a 7-11 trying to turn that money into dinner for two.

If the first section is somehow about capturing the temporary (as odd as that may seem, Meitner clearly knows it and does it just the same), the second section, “Ideal Cities,” seems to be about that stumbling transition into adulthood – babies are born, grandparents die, communities joined, religion reconsidered.

The first poem, “North Country Canzone,” is worth the price of admission all by itself. It will break your heart with both its beauty and pain. “Christmas Towns” is to be relished because its suspense. “Ideal Cities” and “Pharaoh’s Daughter” are two other excellent pieces.

So to the person who recommended Ms. Meitner to me, thank you. And if you are looking to begin your tour of her work, I strongly recommend Ideal Cities. What a beautiful book.

Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake