Erika Meitner's previous collection, Holy Moly Carry Me (BOA, 2018), won the National Jewish Book Award in Poetry and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and for the Library of Virginia Award in Poetry.
Strong regional appeal in Appalachia, New York, and Miami. Meitner has connections to Jewish community centers, universities, and bookstores throughout the Eastern United States, with particularly strong connections in New York City, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Detroit.
Several documentary poems in Useful Junk were commissioned by the City of Miami for a series on built environments and sea-level rise. A 28-page spread of these poems with accompanying photographs by Anna Maria Barry-Jester are featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review.
In the words of the author: "When I started Useful Junk, it felt like a really intimate project I was writing for myself, as a middle-aged woman trying to remember that I had a body-that the world is not OK, but we are beautiful if we can see our own light and remember our own porousness."
Useful Junk includes a series of poem-letters that began as a digital correspondence between the author (a Gen-X English professor in rural Virginia with two kids) and a young writer (a Millennial former tech industry worker in New York coming to terms with her queer identity after a recent miscairrage). These poems explore the unique dynamic of online cross-generational friendships and the life lessons both women learned from each other.
Meitner's work is confessional, autobiographical, political, narrative, sincere, and accessible. Her work is deeply engaged with the present zeitgeist and offers a window into contemporary US culture via an immensely personal look at an individual's life. This collection engages with the themes of experiencing desire in a middle-aged female body, inhabiting physical and virtual spaces, cross-generational friendships, selfies and surveillance technology, and how machines and our relationship with machines frame and shape our lives during a period of increasing global and national crises.