Longtime Eckerd College professor named Florida Poet Laureate

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Gov. Rick Scott has named an Eckerd College professor Florida’s Poet Laureate. Peter Meinke is an emeritus professor of literature who has been with the private liberal arts college since 1966.

Meinke currently serves as the St. Pete Poet Laureate, a post he’s held since 2009. That term ends this year.

Meinke received the call Monday informing him that he would be the state’s fourth Poet Laureate. The position has remained vacant since Meinke’s predecessor, Edmnd Skellings, passed away in 2012.

“I’m very excited,” Meinke said. “It was a bit of a shock, though.”

The honorary position is established to promote appreciation of poetry through both reading and writing and encourages students to use the art to express themselves.

Meinke said rather than lecture on poetry he plans to organize poetry readings all around the state.

“People will tell me, I’m sure, what to do, but in my experience people really do like poetry readings,’’ Meinke said. “When I read a poem, I talk to people about it, and it’s very relaxed.”

Meinke said he’ll be reading at as many places as possible – many of them schools.

“It’s been my experience that when I read poetry to them that they almost always like it,” he said.

Meinke has published 18 books and collections including poetry, both fiction and nonfiction and children’s fiction. His work has appeared in publications like The New Republic, The New Yoker and Atlantic. 

Meinke’s resume also boasts several awards including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, three awards from the Poetry Society of America and a Flannery O’Connor Award for fiction.

The poet will be the keynote speaker at the national convention of the Federation of State Poetry Societies in St. Petersburg on June 26.

Meinke was nominated for the position. His term is four years.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.