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Poetry Focus: Jay Meek

Jay Meek by William Stobb

A great American poet and teacher passed away last fall. After a four-year decline due to Alzheimer's disease, Jay Meek passed away at age 70. From Jay, I learned that men can be calm, speak with reason and proportion, and engage the world with a precise kind of care. And I learned that poetry- this slightest, most fragile form of writing- can fully honor our experience of the world.

Jay published eight collections with Carnegie Mellon University Press. He earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Bush Foundation. He read his works by invitation at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Working toward a Master's degree under Jay's instruction, I had one of those rare experiences- a period of time where I knew I was receiving a very special gift, even as it was being given to me. Since then, I have continued to be grateful to Jay's instruction as it comes to me in his poems, and in his remarkable letters, which graced my life until he became ill in 2003.

More than ever, our young people need a mindfulness at the core of their being - so little of our cultural discourse models that.

May we all live without self-importance or apology,
work at what matters, and listen
while others talk about the things they know well.

from "Internal Exile," one of the new poems in Jay Meek's Headlands: New and Selected Poems (Carnegie Mellon 1997)

Note: a longer version of this remembrance can be heard on William Stobb's miPOradio podcast, "Hard to Say."

William Stob is an American poet.

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