16 pages 32 minutes read

Peter Meinke

Advice to My Son

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1991

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Authorial Context

Though Peter Meinke counts modernists like Ezra Pound and Hilda Dolittle as his literary influences, he departs from the supposed tenet of modernism, which eschews formal structure. From the very onset of his poetic career, Meinke experimented with traditional poetry forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, and the pantoum. While the idea that modernist poets were merely against form is highly questionable, Meinke chose to steer clear of affectation for affectation’s sake. Meinke’s poetry can also be read as a response to the schools of literary affectation and anti-formalism in the American poetry of the mid-20th century. Referring to himself as a “neighborhood poet,” Meinke finds both wisdom and darkness in domestic spaces and everyday life. His poems often encompass life’s contradictory aspects in a singular narrative—“Advice to My Son” epitomizing this approach.

Literary Context

Profoundly influenced by 17th-century English poetry and the work of John Donne in particular, Peter Meinke often uses literary devices like juxtaposition and irony to capture the contradictions of human experience. Just like Donne used unusual conceits and humor to navigate difficult questions of time and mortality, Meinke too uses wit to explore dark themes.