A series of intimate and captivating interviews by Rachel Zucker with poets and artists about quotidian objects, experiences or obsessions, Commonplace conversations explore the recipes, advice, lists, anecdotes, quotes, politics, phobias, spiritual practices, and other non-Literary forms of knowledge that are vital to an artist’s life and work. One feels, when listening to Commonplace, the pleasure of eavesdropping on the kind of unexpected, intriguing connections that only happen when interesting people sit together in a small room and talk about their real concerns and ordinary lives.

Episode 6: Erika Meitner

Episode 6: Erika Meitner

In this special two-part episode, Rachel Zucker speaks with poet Erika Meitner, author of four books, most recently Copia. In part one, Meitner details her circuitous route to becoming a poet, her early influences (especially the work of Mark Doty), and her conversational diction and increasingly straight-forward poetics. She explains that much of her work arises from a commitment to writing accurately and respectfully about the small town in which she lives, and the challenges of writing as an engaged member of her community while being an othered outsider, a poet, a Jew, and the white mother of a black son. Meitner and Zucker discuss documentary poetry, the ethical considerations of writing about real people, alternatives to the pastoral, and "gritpo," a term neither of them really understand. In part two, Meitner and Zucker speak by phone so that Meitner can describe her experience of reporting in verse while in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. Their conversation explores the difference between poetry and media, the challenges of working on commission and on deadline, and the efficacy of poetry as a tool for social justice.



Erika Meitner’s essay on Rita Dove from the anthology Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections edited by Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker

Erika Meitner’s website

Erika’s Books


Ideal Cities

MakeShift Instructions for Vigilant Girls

Inventory at the All-Night Drug Store

Erika’s Detroit project on Virginia Quarterly Review

Ryan Spencer Reed, the photographer that Erika worked with on the Cleveland / RNC Project

Links to documentary poets and specific books/projects Erika mentions

Philip Metres’s Sand Opera and a great essay Metres wrote for Poetry Foundation's Poetry and Journalism Symposium presented in conjunction with the Columbia School of Journalism on the question: Can poetry document an historical moment rather than just offer a subjective account of events?

Murial Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead [link to Collected Poems]

C.D. Wright’s One Big Self and One with Others

Nick Flynn’s The Ticking is the Bomb

Adrian Matejka’s The Big Smoke

Claudia Rankin’s Citizen

Susan B.A. Somers-Willet’s Women of Troy

Natasha Tretheway's Beyond Katrina

Kwame Dawes’s project on the spread of HIV in Jamaica - HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica

Mark Doty's My Alexandria


Episode 7: Cathy Park Hong

Episode 7: Cathy Park Hong

Episode 5: Matthew Rohrer

Episode 5: Matthew Rohrer