On Bearing the Hunger Whole

If anyone out there knows anything about Barbara Naftali Meyers, please drop me a line.

I found what I think is her one and only book in the poetry section of a rare and used book store in downtown Tampa three days after Christmas. I had really just walked in to browse, and I almost never buy poetry anthologies, but (at the risk of sounding dramatic or pretentious, and I’ll go ahead and allow you an eye-roll) I felt an immediate connection to Bearing the Hunger Whole.

Bearing the Hunger Whole, The Nut Tree Press (1986)
Bearing the Hunger Whole, The Nut Tree Press (1986)

There was a time in my life when I dissected verses and pored over song lyrics and just really, really cared about poetry. I still find myself moved every now and then by a poem, but most of the time I’ll crack open an anthology and the writing will feel more removed. Not because the work is inaccessible, but because I’m out of touch. Like I haven’t worked those muscles in a while and I’m remarkably out of shape.

But then I flipped to this page and it felt like Meyers was speaking to me directly with these two poems.

See Black/Poetry

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of giving oneself permission to be bad in writing (and Zumba). First drafts are bad. But, we need them. We have to embrace them and accept them for what they are. We need them to get to the less crappy second draft, the better third draft, the nearly final eighth draft… We need to show them to the people we trust so we can receive honest and helpful feedback. Crappy first drafts – pass them out like bread!

And “See Black.” I feel like there’s so much here. But what rises to the surface is clear instruction to be honest and present and to recognize the role you play in the universe.

Of course, all poetry is up for interpretation and we human beings will see and hear the messages we want and need to receive at any given time. Perhaps Meyers had other themes in mind. Maybe she’s not my soul sister in verse.

Based on my internet research findings, Bearing the Hunger Whole is Meyers’s only published book of poems. I can’t find any articles or poetry sites that reference her or her work. And according to the half-page bio on the last page, she died in 1982, long before the age author blogs and twitter accounts. It’s feels strange (and a little unfair) that all I’ll ever know about this author starts and ends with one book.

So, my question remains: Anyone know anything about the life and work of Barbara Naftali Meyers?

If not, Did you ever pick up a book and feel an immediate connection?

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5 thoughts on “On Bearing the Hunger Whole

  1. Loved the post. And I love the line “there are mouths to feed.” So maybe it’s not just about you getting something from the people you trust to read your “crappy” first drafts, but they are getting something from your work as well. Lovely and true.
    I haven’t found a book that I connect with so instinctively in a long time, but, periodically, in my free time (haha), I will pick up an old book from my bookshelf, one I’ve forgotten I even own, and look through it, and I realize just how nice it is to feel connected to another person I’ve never met. Maybe that in itself is the gift you found in that Tampa bookstore. (Go Tampa! Go bookstores!)

    1. Thank you, friend, for your thoughtful comment! And don’t you get a little sad when you pick up a book you so, so loved and realize you won’t ever be able to read it for the first time again? (I also get that way when I think about watching “Friday Night Lights.”) We are such sensitive nerds, aren’t we?

      1. Yes we are, my friend. And oh, “Friday Night Lights,” how I miss thee. I only regret that I binge watched it instead of savoring all of its–Tim Riggins’–glory.

  2. Loved the post! Plus I love the fact that you love books. Everyone keeps saying books are going to go away, but I just don’t think you can have the same feeling holding a Nook, a Kindle or whatever, as holding a book in your hands. We have some older reference books at the Library; I’ll go in early tomorrow and do some research for you. I doubt I’ll find anything, but it’s worth a try. Again, great post!

    1. Books are SO not going away! I have a Nook and I see and appreciate its value and purpose. But, it’s a very different reading experience. There’s enough to read that we can have both in our lives.
      Thanks for employing your librarian superpowers! I hope you can find something!

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