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Remembering Bert Meyers

July 10, 1994

Jack Miles' beautiful tribute to the poet Bert Meyers ("Secrets of a Teacher," May 29) evokes a host of emotions in me.

Being remembered as an inspirational teacher would certainly gratify Bert, even as it would make him bray with self-deprecating laughter. Bert was first, last and always a Poet. His poetry is his enduring legacy.

I know. I grew up with Bert. Our world was East Hollywood in a neighborhood of frame bungalows, weedy vacant lots and quiet streets. The 1940s Hollywood we knew had little resemblance to Raymond Chandler's Hollywood, nor John Rechy's, nor Nathanael West's.

The Southern California we knew was benevolent. It encouraged a live-and-let-live tolerance of differences. (Nobody really gave a damn if a person chose to be a poet, a sidewalk philosopher or a streetcar conductor.) The environment and the times permitted a poet like Bert to seek and find his own voice without undue pressures.

In junior high school, Bert, the gentle poet-to-be, was a time bomb ready to explode any time he was mishandled.

In high school (John Marshall, not Belmont, never Belmont!) Bert was a surly kid, a loner, a gymnast who scorned the society of gymnasts; a poetry lover who avoided the student intellectual fringe.

After high school our friendship deepened. The Hollywood we embraced was populated by would-be writers, by art students and dancers, by dreamers, eccentrics and fools--it was a fine environment for an embryo poet like Bert.

Bert's Hollywood and mine consisted of bookstores and bungalow parties, second-run movie houses and coffee shops, long walks through the length and breadth of our hometown--and poetry. Bert's obsession with writing and reading poetry was awesome.

Except in the underground culture, poets hardly rank in the hierarchy of Hollywood society; but in that underground culture, Bert Meyers was well-respected and admired long before his migration to Claremont and his subsequent role as teacher.

I miss him. I guess I always will.

LEONARD HYMEN, OJAI

*

Bert Meyers was not only a teacher at Pitzer College but one of L.A.'s finest poets. Unfortunately, Bert's poems have been out of print for some time. He published as many as six books of poetry before his untimely death at 51 from lung cancer. Unlike many poets publishing books today Bert did not rush into print, but, as careful with his poems as he was with his frames, he applied each word to a poem as if applying gold leaf to a frame. He was known to us as poets in L.A. as a fine poet who died far too soon. The well known poet Robert Bly did announce some time ago that he was going to publish a book of 20 poems by Bert Meyers. It is truly unfortunate that such a reprinting of some of these poems has so long been delayed. But I do hope that more people will know of him now that Jack Miles has written his article about the fine poems he heard read in Claremont.

ESTELLE GERSHGOREN NOVAK, BEVERLY HILLS

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