BOOK BEAT 9 – Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   September 13-19, 2006

by Philip K. Jason

Several years ago, when Marylin Krepf pondered what she could do to perk up her sister-in-law, Phyliss Geller, who had entered a gloomy period following a professional setback, the bright idea of co-editing a poetry anthology popped into her head. Phyliss quickly agreed. Soon after, the Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry was born, with Phyliss taking the title of publisher and editor while Marilyn was designated as literary editor. The latest iteration, Volume IV, has just appeared, and it advances the steady maturation demonstrated through the first three volumes.

Marylin and Phyliss have been involved with poetry for a long time. Both were shaped in part by a poetry workshop led by Pearl London at the New School in New York in the mid-1970s. Marylin, as Marylin Butler, published a collection of her work – Half Past Sunset – in 1985. The book received brief but enthusiastic reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. In that same year, her poem “Listen” was included in the prestigious anthology Carrying the Darkness, edited by W. D. Ehrhart. This is the most influential collection of poems dealing with the Vietnam War.

After her marriage to Winfried Krepf, a civil engineer, Marylin followed his career, which took the couple to several fascinating places: Germany (where her husband was born), Saudi Arabia, Siberia, and Indonesia among them. Relocating to the states to establish a more stable, non-wandering lifestyle, Winfried took a job in Fort Myers and seven years ago the couple settled in Naples with their young son. Since the boy’s enrollment at the Royal Palm Academy, Marylin has been named the school’s poet-in-residence.

Marylin and Phyliss (who lives in Boca Raton) share in the editorial selection process. Phyliss serves as first reader, logging in the poems and annotating them with her comments before passing them on to Marylin. Marylin then serves as the second reader. She writes to each potential contributor personally, quite frequently making suggestions for revision. Once the poems are selected, the women then strive to create an arrangement through which the poems speak to one another, allowing the anthology volume to be greater than the some of its parts.

The present volume and the one before it are notable for including reprints of poems by established poets. Volume Three contains poems by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Philip Levine. The new volume features poems by Jane Hirschfield. This decision to anchor anthology volumes with a prominent poet allows all the contributors to appear in good company and calls special attention to the anthology. It is, in fact, a marketing device that assures high quality as well. Marylin sees no reason not to republish poems by such major authors, giving the poems a chance to reach a new audience.

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