Useful Junk

BOA Editions, 2022

Out from BOA Editions on April 5, 2022! Order here:

In her previous five collections of poems, Erika Meitner has established herself as one of America’s most incisive observers, cherished for her remarkable ability to temper catastrophe with tenderness. Meitner’s sixth collection, Useful Junk, explores memory, desire, and the various ways the body sees and is seen. Part travelogue, part dream journal, part epistle, these poems arrive right on time with their wisdom, wit, and wonder. With dauntless vulnerability, Meitner travels a world of strip malls, supermarkets, airplanes, and subway platforms, remaining porous and open to the world, always returning to the intimacies rooted deep within the self as a shout against the dying earth. These poems affirm that we are made of every intimate moment we have ever had, and plumb the ways in which digital technologies—sexting, Uber, selfies, Instagram—are reframing self-image and shifting the ratios of risk and reward in erotic encounters. Boldly affirming that pleasure is a vital form of knowledge, Useful Junk reminds us that our selves are made real and beautiful by our embodied experiences, and that our desire is what keeps us alive.

Pre-publication buzz at New England ReviewThe Bookslinger, CLMP, and Write or Die Tribe.


“Erika Meitner’s Useful Junk is composed of poems that are tragicomic-erotic-nostalgic with a twist of existential dread and a cherry of wit on top. Meitner’s speaker is most comfortable, or most able to endure her discomfort, when she’s on the move, in airport terminals and on subway platforms, between the domestic present tense and the erotic subterfuge of memory, sex, and poetry, between selfhood and the selfie. These daring poems exist at the intersection of usefulness and junk, where I, you, and we are tenuously twined ‘together like an interrobang’ until we drop anchor or disappear.”  —Diane Seuss

“There are so many layers of revelation embodied in Erika Meitner’s Useful Junk, and so many selves allowed to speak and shine here. This book is more than I thought a book could be. Sharp and funny and horny and transcendent and generous and human as hell, it is the very book of poems all my selves have been waiting for. ‘Listen,’ the poet says here, ‘we are making art because we want to inhabit everything / and not fear it.’ Done and done, Erika Meitner. Done and done.”  —Carrie Fountain

Useful Junk is indisputably addictive, graced by the poet’s signature clutch on quirky, her dazzling and exhaustive range, and a dexterity with lyric that consistently upends the ordinary. An Erika Meitner poem is not only enviable art — it’s a loosening of what ties us to the ordinary. And the long-anticipated arrival of this new work is cause for unbridled celebration, a necessary reminder that great poetry always arrives just when we need it.”  —Patricia Smith


“The vulnerable and energetic sixth book from Meitner (Holy Moly Carry Me) explores the effect of technology, memory, and travel on the self…In these poems of yearning, the body’s accumulated knowledge moves toward the future…This layered work is full of intriguing observations and tender, incisive reflections on human experience.”  —Publishers Weekly

“In poems that range from ekphrastic pieces to profane epistolary meditations to philosophical parody to headlong, luge-like poems in thrall to polysyndeton, Meitner’s effort to create ‘a trace, exalted’ is restless, alternately carefree and exacting, with a desire for transcendence that heeds the mortal limits of our materiality…”  —David Woo, Harriet Books

“Erika Meitner’s sixth collection blazes with eroticism and curiosity. These passionate poems teem with incisive observations of daily life, from night-swimming at a Holiday Inn to buying a pregnancy test at CVS…Useful Junk explores memory and the body with relentless lyricism and nostalgia, writing in praise of female pleasure and discovery at midlife. Meitner’s poems want to inhabit everything, and do: perimenopause, infertility, friendship, motherhood, family trauma, sexting, trying to take a selfie of one’s own ass. There is an infectious, headlong energy to the lines, a vision “multitudinous and wild” akin to that of Walt Whitman.”  —Diana Whitney, Electric Lit

Use­ful Junk, Eri­ka Meitner’s sixth book, surges with amal­gamiz­ing ener­gy…This is a book that demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly yet inti­mate­ly gath­ers all in its path, from Pol­ish ghet­tos to the art of the butt self­ie…Indeed, Meitner’s vir­tu­osic range and com­mand of place result in a book that insists that we see and under­stand each oth­er. ​‘Lis­ten’ she writes, ​‘we are making/​/​art because we want to inhab­it everything/​and not fear it.’”  —Allison Pitinii Davis, Jewish Book Council

“A phallic potted cactus, a bitten hotdog in a bun, and two vaguely testicular balloons adorn a small table on the cover of Erika Meitner’s sixth collection, Useful Junk. With its play on ‘junk’ and winking references to body parts, the cover signals a tone and topic, but the book reaches deeper with its considerations of the body, sex, and desire in midlife—asking whether we can ever truly grasp our own absolute beauty…Like Whitman, Meitner insists that we are all connected: ‘inside us [is] a space-time continuum that contains all the people and places we’ve touched and tasted and walked through and dwelled in.’ Permeability is both sexual and metaphysical.”  —Emily Pérez, Rhino