The University of Wisconsin Press



Acts of Contortion
Anna George Meek

The Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, General Editor

Winner of the 2002 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Edward Hirsch

In poems that are by turns witty, lush, and unflinching, Acts of Contortion   explores the gestures of both hurtfulness and compassion. Whether set in a shelter for battered women, in the midst of a political demonstration, or at the center of an orchestra, the poems pursue the place of language in an injurious world. The political conscience at work is feminist, pacifist, and at odds with itself. Anna George Meek finds that the brutal and the compassionate are sometimes indistinguishable, born of our need to make contact outside of ourselves. These gestures—of music, of touch, of poetry—appear in the poems as the violin, domestic abuse, and words to comfort a woman in pain. The poems argue: difficult yet imperative, the attempt to gesture beyond ourselves is an act of contortion.

Anna George Meek is a freelance violinist, violin teacher, and instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis; she has also spent several years working as crisis intervention staff at a domestic violence shelter. Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Massachusetts Review, Missouri Review, Poetry, and other journals. She received an M.A. from the Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. in English from Indiana University, where she was a 1995 recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. This is her first book.


"Acts of Contortion is a first book of great urgency, a scorching protest against human suffering. I am deepened immeasurably by this work that struggles to make connections and transfigure losses, these beautifully made poems—contorted acts!—that hum with the music of compassion."
—Edward Hirsch

" Reading Anna Meek's sensual and eloquent Acts of Contortion is like listening to a great symphony. Fragments from the first bars reappear, subside, disappear, and return us once again to her deepest perception—that the body is an instrument of truth. Sometimes the body is lucky, and expresses itself through the music of the violin, or through the production of passionate speech or poetry. But sometimes the body can do nothing but break open in the face of violence—in birth, in pain, in death. These exquisitely crafted poems are unflinching in their honesty, reaffirming precision over approximation as the human ideal."
—Maura Stanton

"From its opening paean to the human hand, to its final sequence's circus contortionist who ‘twists . . . bearing / down into her chest like a cellist,’ Anna Meek's fine first book returns continually to the world of the flesh, its wonders and woes, where ‘the skin cries with love,’ and the abused seek shelter, and a woman pregnant with twins feels how ‘her generous body aspires to open.’ But these poems are smart and sly as well as sensual. They attempt to be true to the fullness of our condition, and they leave us feeling ultimately that we've been in . . . well, good hands."
—Albert Goldbarth


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Of Related Interest:
cover of Ripe is a photo of a grouping of ceramic sunsRipe
Roy Jacobstein

Winner of the 2002 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, selected by Edward Hirsch


September 2002
LC: 2002005534 PS
92 pp.   6 x 9

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Anna is an instructor with the Loft Literary center in Minneapolis. Their web site is and more information about her writing is available here.

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