Kansas Poets "Shoptalk" Series
Program 4 - Stephen Meats
October 10, 2006


Stephen Meats
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Stephen MeatsStephen Meats was born in LeRoy, Kansas and raised in Concordia, Kansas.  He graduated from Concordia High School in 1962 and attended Kansas State University for three years before transferring to the University of South Carolina in 1965, where he earned his bachelorís (1966), masterís (1968), and doctoral degrees in English (1972). 

He has taught at the U. S. Air Force Academy (1968-1972), the University of Tampa (1972-1979), and Pittsburg State University (1979-present), where he is currently University Professor and Chairperson of the Department of English.  Besides scholarly articles, editions, and reviews, Meats has published one book of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (Topeka: Woodley Press, 1993). 

His poems and short stories have appeared in numerous journals, including Kansas Quarterly, The Little Balkans Review, Albatross, The Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Blue Unicorn, Tampa Review, Arete: A Journal of Sports Literature, Hurakan, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Poetry, Dos Passos Review, Angel Face, and The Laughing Dog, and in the anthologies, A White Voice Rides a Horse (1979) and Kansas Stories (1989).  Since 1985, he has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly.

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 Kansas Poet Laureate, Jonathan Holden on Stephen Meats

Back in the early nineteen seventies, there was a poetic movement started by Robert Bly entitled Deep Image poetry.  This poetry was indebted heavily to the psychology of C. G. Jung and to Jung's theory of archetypes -- "archetypal images which recur in dreams."  In Jungian terms, images of birds symbolize rebirth.  Meats' title poem for his volume, published in 1993, is about this:

    Looking for the Pale Eagle

    The world is winking
    at us all the time.

    Take for example
    that red-winged blackbird
    we have admired and
    grown tired of admiring
    poised on the up-curve
    of cat-tail stems
    in every watery ditch
    from Idaho to Florida.
    One day on a drive to Wichita
    I saw that thousandth
    or ten thousandth blackbird.

    From below its crimson epaulet
    a glint of yellow winked at me.

    Sunlight sang
    across ditch water.
    I remembered the polished turning
    of plowed ground near Dyersburg,
    the light-edged scales
    of a moccasin sunning
    on a cypress log
    in the  Combahee,
    the pale eagle rising
    in the moon's face.

    Wind through the car
    window laughed at me.
    See--it was always there.
    All you had to do
    was look--and look--
    and keep on looking.

This beautiful poem seems almost tailor-made to carry out the Jungian plan for art to provide archetypal experience and healing insight.  Perhaps the most healing poem in the book is Seeing My Father Again:


    I've seen my father once
    in the ten years since
    he turned on his side
    that bright October morning
    and died without a sound.

    I heard his muffled call
    from somewhere in the house
    and went to find him.
    . . . He had lost
    his glasses, he told me,
    and needed me to find them.
    And besides, it's lonely here,
    he said . . .
    I did the only thing
    that I could think to do.
    Even though the bed was narrow
    and I had on coat and tie and shoes,
    I climbed under the cover
    and held him till we fell asleep.

A spooky poem, poignant in its authenticity.  But Looking for the Pale Eagle is filled with such poems, validating C. G. Jung's metaphysical system, his "religion," his [Jung's] belief in typological synchronicity.

  Jonathan Holden