Birth City, State, Country
Bert Meyers was born in Los Angeles in 1928. The son of Romanian Jewish immigrants, and a high school drop out, Meyers worked at manual labor jobs until finally becoming a master picture framer and gilder. When that work negatively impacted his health, he applied and was admitted to the Claremont Graduate School on the basis of his poetic achievements. In 1967 he was hired to teach poetry and literature at Pitzer College, where he taught for eleven years. During the last period of his life as a professor, Meyers not only finally had the time offered by academia to focus on his writing, he also had an important and lasting influence on some of his most talented students: a new generation of poets and writers including Dennis Cooper, Amy Gerstler, Garrett Hongo, and Maurya Simon, among others. Meyers died of lung cancer in 1979, at the young age of 51. He published five books of poetry in his lifetime. In 2023, the Unsung Masters Series will publish a volume dedicated to his work, edited by Dana Levin and Adele Elise Williams.
What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?
Meyers was not a religious poet, but his Jewish identity was inextricable from his world view. Readers can see this at play in poems like “The Garlic” and “Signature,” where he writes: “\I like cognac / and a proud Jewish song / I live wherever / I don’t belong.\” Meyers had a firm sense of social justice, informed by his experiences as an outsider: a child of working class Jewish immigrants, coming of age in Los Angeles in the 1940s. His idealism and belief in people drew him towards various causes for the rest of his life, from civil rights to the anti-Vietnam War movement. Though never dogmatic, or overtly political, his poems are full of humanistic belief and philosophy. For more, see his biography at Poetry Foundation.
The Wild Olive Tree & The Blue Café (Jazz Press/PapaBach, 1981)
Windowsills (The Common Table, 1979)
The Wild Olive Tree (West Coast Poetry Review, 1979)
Sunlight on the Wall (Kayak, 1976)
The Dark Birds (Doubleday, 1968)
Early Rain (Alan Swallow, 1960)
Unsung Masters Series: Bert Meyers; with Dana Levin and Adele Elise Williams, Editors (Pleiades Press, 2023)
In a Dybbuk’s Raincoat: Collected Poems; with Morton Marcus and Daniel Meyers, Editors (University of New Mexico Press, 2007)
Links to Sample Works
Claremont Graduate School