Meats was born in LeRoy, Kansas, and raised in Concordia. Foremost
of his contributions to Kansas literary culture is his service as
poetry editor of Midwest Quarterly. In that role he has
curated special issues of regional poetry, including one devoted to
the first Kansas poet laureate Jonathan Holden. He is able to
fulfill this poet’s poet role because of his own fine verse. His
book Looking for the Pale Eagle is a rare poetry best
seller—the first printing sold out quickly.
This poem “My
Advice” gives directions for enjoying the countryside of Kansas. Meats
describes a typical prairie road—not spectacular, but small joys unfold
He suggests that his readers stop and collect “chat,” or roadbed gravel,
to reposition at home. The reflective moment of collection is when sky,
birds, and landscape are noticed. The rock is for remembering that
moment. Like stone soup, after the recipe is complete, the stone can be
discarded. As a catalyst, its purpose is fulfilled. Poems are like such
You say you want to
find yourself. You’ll need
a piece of gravel.
Drive any rocked road
in Kansas and you’ll
hear pieces by the dozen
knocking in your wheel
wells. For once, stop
and get out of the
car. Take a minute to look
at the sky—flat
bottomed clouds shadowing
the pastures. You’ll
hear the meadowlark
on the fence post
before you see him fly.
Pick up your piece of
gravel. If you’re far
off the main route, a
handful of chat, or even
road sand will do.
Cup it in your palm while your
tires hum away the
miles on the asphalt highway.
Warm it in your pocket
as you drink your coffee
at the café counter in
the next town, and stay
a while to look at the
faces and listen to the talk.
Then take it home with
you and right away
put it in your garden
or your flower box or drop
it in the driveway.
It doesn’t really matter.
Meats attended Kansas State University for three years before
transferring to the University of South Carolina, where he earned his
bachelor’s (1966), master’s (1968), and doctoral degrees in English
Meats is University Professor and English Department Chair Pittsburg
State University. Since 1985, he has been poetry editor of The
Midwest Quarterly. Meats has published Looking for the Pale Eagle
(Woodley Press, 1993). His poetry, articles, and fiction appear in
Kansas Quarterly, The Little Balkans Review,
Albatross, The Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Blue Unicorn, Tampa Review,
Arete, Hurakan, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Poetry, Dos Passos Review,
©2009 Denise Low AAPP 42 ©2008 “My Advice,” Stephen Meats, in
Dos Passos Review