Regular as clockwork, Stephen Meats turns out a book of poetry every 20 years.
His first book of poetry, "Looking for the Pale Eagle," was published in 1993 by the Woodley Press. The Pittsburg State University English professor will present a free public reading from his new book, "Dark Dove Descending," at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Governor's Room, Overman Student Center.
His reading is part of the PSU Distinguished Visiting Writers Series, which is sponsored by the PSU English department and the Student Fee Council.
His latest book includes both poems and short stories. In fact, Meats first intended it as a book of short stories.
"I called Denise Low of Mammoth Press in Lawrence and asked her if she would be interested in a slim volume of stories," he said. "I just wanted to fold them together from different magazines and have them in one place."
Low asked him how many pages he estimated the book would have, and he said probably only 50 or 60.
"Denise said it would be better if we could get it up to 100 pages, and that's when I started thinking about mixing poems in," Meats said.
He added that this turned out well.
"The stories and the poems started talking to each other," Meats said. "It makes a book."
A native Kansan, he was born in LeRoy, raised in Concordia and attended Kansas State University before transferring to the University of South Carolina in 1963. He earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, and taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy and at the University of Tampa before returning to Kansas in 1979 to accept the position of PSU English department chairman.
His home state plays an important role in Meats creative processes.
"This is very definitely a Kansas book," he said. "All the landscapes in it are Kansas."
"The title story, 'Dark Dove Descending,' is about two brothers and a near drowning incident of the younger brother," Meats said. "It's a fictionalized account of when I fell in a creek and almost drowned."
The cover photo of the book is of the old farmhouse north of Concordia where Meats lived from the time he was 1 until he was 10."During my 2012 sabbatical I drove around my old haunts," he said. "I went by the old one-room school, and the house was just a quarter of a mile from that. It was raining too hard to get out of the car, but I stopped in front of the house, opened the car window and shot a picture through the rain."
The photo was not of the highest quality, but some work by Kane Leins, graphic designer, son of Ann and Stephen Meats, fixed the problems.
"My son John Meats designed the cover," Meats said. "This got to be a real family project."
He has written numerous scholarly articles, and his stories and poems have appeared in numerous publications, including "Kansas Quarterly," "The Quarterly," "Tampa Review," "Flint Hills Review," "Prairie Poetry," "Arete" The Journal of Sport Literature," "Dos Passos Review," "Angel Face" and "The Laughing Dog," and in the anthologies "Kansas Stories," "Begin Again" and "To the Stars Through Difficulties."
He and his wife Ann currently share their home grounds with three dogs, seven cats and six hives of bees. The bees are primarily the project of Ann Meats, but her husband assists with them.
He's happy to report that, despite the current declining bee population, the Meats hives appear to be healthy.
"We've harvested five gallons of honey from them, which is more than we had expected, and may get a little more," he said.
It comes at a price. Meats estimates he's been stung around 30 times, though he wears protective gear when working around the bees.
"They are very persistent and will get at you," he said.
After a stint as interim dean of the PSU College of Arts and Sciences, Meats is happy to be back teaching in a classroom. He's currently teaching half-time and will eventually retire.
That will give him more time to write stories and poems for his next book, which should be out in 2033.
In the meantime, "Dark Dove Descending" can be purchased at the reception following his Thursday reading in the Heritage Room of the PSU Student Center, and also through Amazon, Walmart and other outlets.