Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar

By Richard Meier
Publication Date: September 1, 2006

ISBN# 9781933517100 (6x8.5 112pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781933517117 (6x8.5 112pp, limited edition hardcover)

  • The poems in Meier’s second collection stumble toward a gesture like Shelley’s to Jane Williams: guitar given in place of song.

    These poems posit a transmutation of clarity: “The sentences were so clear you had to run into them / and discover your head in the sliding glass door / of the house on stilts.” The whole a love poem to that blow or barrier. “A note in the form of a kiss passed / through the barricades.”

  • Spectacularly inventive in its phrasings, unabashedly traditional in its themes and fluidly postmodern in its syntax, Meier’s second volume is also almost unremittingly sad. The title invokes Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem on the gift of a musical instrument, whose strains, Shelley says, transfigure both joy and pain. Drenched in the language of poets who have come before him, Meier’s landscapes frame and expose a music of corroded memory and intense regret. 
    Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

    In the midst of all the conceptual fun and flux, Meier manages to handle the subject matter with no shortage of gorgeousness.
    Brett Price, H_NGM_N

    Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar is a deeply playful collection that dexterously maneuvers through the difficult music of longing, uncertainty, and tradition. In his second book of poems, Richard Meier’s plentiful sources range from the Pre-Socratics, European Modernists, and aspects of New York School. The main source of the book, however, is lifted from the British Romantics. The title alludes to Percy Blythe Shelley’s “To Jane: The Keen Stars Were Twinkling” a poem written for Jane Williams shortly before the great romantic’s fatal last voyage with her husband. Early in Shelley’s poem, the speaker proclaims “Dear Jane! / The guitar was tinkling, / But the notes were not sweet until you sung them/ Again.” Meier reanimates this haunted melody and through humor, bizarre conceits, and restless innovation—and he does indeed sing again, not only by reconfiguring Shelley, but by delicately anachronistic, erotic, and surreal restringing.
    Ashley Smith, Front Porch Journal

    In his second book, Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, Richard Meier takes his title from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s gift of a poem and guitar to Jane Williams shortly before he died at sea. In Shelley’s poem, a guitar waits for the gentle reader/musician to play it; it stands in for both the poem and the giver. By evoking Shelley in his title, Meier renders the myth of poetry and the poet inherent to Shelley’s name and also suggests something about the transfer of experience into language and the gift of language to another. ...The poetry is vested in the world and in looking carefully even if this means losing its bearings. It is sensual and lyrical as awkward love poems, showing a self-awareness tempered by self-effacement, and it is lovely for this humility.
    J’lyn Chapman, Denver Quarterly

    Richard Meier... builds his poems as though he were an architect, experimenting with his materials, carefully structuring them to build layered, formally vigorous poems like the abecedarian, "Doing Things," crafted line by line, letter by letter.
    Kathleen Rooney, Octopus Magazine

    Meier has re-named the world in such a way as to make the self its only true inhabitant.
    Olivia Cronk, Bookslut

  • Richard Meier’s second book of poetry, Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, was published by Wave Books in 2006. His first book, Terrain Vague, was selected by Tomaz Salamun for the Verse Prize and published by Verse Press in 2001. He is writer-in-residence at Carthage College and lives in Chicago, IL and Madison, WI.

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