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The Spirit Bride

by Bruce Meyer

As a literary critic, lecturer, and author, Dr. Bruce Meyer is well known for his expertise on the “Great Books” in the Western literary canon. In many ways, The Spirit Bride, Meyer’s fifth collection of poetry, continues this journey through the canon, this time through poetic reflections on some of the best-known poets – from Virgil to Emily Dickinson, from Christopher Marlowe to Robert Frost.

Meyer’s interest in these poets is more than academic. These are the poets that have obviously shaped his own understanding of the craft, and in writing to and about these poets he follows strict forms of prosody that one rarely sees in contemporary poetry. In “Frost at Homer Noble Farm,” Meyer imitates the spirit and form of Robert Frost’s own writing, but in a language that is contemporary, even colloquial: “This is a place of opening lines, so many begun only to be forgotten an instant after, a respite/for what could have been had it worked out right.” In “Love Poem to Emily Dickinson,” Meyer imitates Dickinson’s signature style through his structure. In this case, however, he does not capture the energy of her language, and the imagery seems flat by comparison: “The door trimmed for mourning/a stairway formed the heart/but footsteps beat in silence–/the house soon fell apart.”

Several of the poems are not so obviously allusive. These poems unfold Meyer’s own poetic sensibility in unconstrained, vivid language. Here the use of traditional versification seems less like a writing exercise than Meyer enjoying the possibilities of language, as demonstrated in “Spring”: “Love ain’t for lovin’ in overshoes./Can’t solve love by pickin’ up clues.” Unfortunately, Meyer too often shifts into another mode of poetic expression before he’s really explored the potential of his first mode, and as a result, The Spirit Bride reads as a collection in many voices that lacks a true voice of its own.