I have never seen anything like Caits Meissner’s first solo collection: Let It Die Hungry. Brave. Eclectic. Essential. Especially in this day and age when the rats in power are filling the swamp with evil droppings. Let It Die Hungry is a manifesto, a manual, a survivor’s message-in-a-bottle and a battle-cry.
In “praise poem,” dedicated to the poets at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility where Meissner facilitates writing workshops, her mastering of tradition is clear:
We can remember, it has always proven
that we are made of stars, always vibrating,
sparking, even if it cannot be seen by
the foolish eye and each era, there we are,
unmistakably, a presence growing large.
Yes, we are spinning: the entire revolving sky.
If these couplets are juxtaposed against “notes on edges,” a surreal, meta-scrawl which blurs the boundary between writing prompt and personal narrative, the range and scope of Meissner’s versatility can be seen:
True, heads nod.
/ I stop being whatever I am, transmute. Simple energy. /
It is a good exercise — what do you become in that moment?
/ A glowing crystal ball — all knowing. /
— Come on, you can get more interesting than that.
/ My Grandfather’s pipesmoke. The growl of a midnight badger. A funk bassline pulsing below a buried coffin. Banging the walls of a mitochondrial cell—you thought I was gonna say concrete! A tin can rattling an electric solo through a string. /
—Now we are talking.
Or compare the solid confessional prose of “notes on wanting”:
When I was young I watched the girls flip plastic burgers on the play stove while I sat shirtless, young buds on my chest puffed out, pretending to be a man. I liked this dark fear, whispering forbidden into the ears of mother tulips where I asked my elementary friends to disrobe among petals to rub me secret.
Theme is as diverse as style in Let It Die Hungry. Sexuality, danger, relationships, health, youth, New York, incarceration, freedom—thematically the gamut is run. Moreover, the diverse styles seamlessly fit each theme, including a series of graphic drawings that are provocative, powerful and political.
Brooklyn-based publisher, The Operating System, whose mandate is “to archive and disseminate ideas, beliefs, stories, and other evidence of production,” has published a scrapbook with Meissner’s innermost etchings. Prose poems, formal verse, random notes, subtitled illustrations and writing prompts are compiled to create a whirlwind of experimentation. In a post-script interview, Meissner states, “the whole book is a learning on the page.” Unafraid to face difficult questions—“I’ve had some very painful conversations over the years”—Meissner strives and reaches “authentic connection” with each offering. The fact that Meissner is a facilitator and works with incarcerated women and youth is never far from the surface. By continually attempting to understand “the other,” her message gives hope. By not dehumanizing “the enemy” (“I cannot make him a dog. I cannot let him die hungry.”), an inner-self-understanding is reached. By not being afraid to challenge the demons within and without, Let It Die Hungry is a ground-breaking archive battling to bridge the gaps that continue to rip society apart. Caits Meissner’s Let It Die Hungry is a necessary instructional epistle, a brave lightening rod striking hope.