Employee QA: Tyler Meier, Executive Director of the Poetry Center
Name: Tyler Meier
Position: Executive Director of the Poetry Center
Number of years at the UA: 2 months
Favorite thing about working at the UA: I pinch myself on most days when I walk into this building and think, "This is where my office is," partly because of the grandeur of having an office in this space, but also because this place exists, that this building – which celebrates poetry by its very existence – that it exists. That's what I'm really excited about.
Who is your favorite poet? I won't say a favorite, but there are touchstones that I find myself going back to in regular ways. W.B. Yeats would be one. Larry Levis would be one. But then there are books that I'm also reading that are by more current writers. There's a poet named Sarah Gridley whose contemporary work I really love and whose books I follow as they come out. There's a writer named Shane McCrae who has a book that has recently come out that I really love. And a person that I'm really excited about (her recent work) is Mary Ruefle. So, not a favorite, but a flavor of the moment. And that changes.
Tyler Meier, executive director at the UA Poetry Center, left his home state of Ohio to secure his dream job in Tucson – a city he had never even visited before.
Meier worked previously at The Kenyon Review, a literary magazine that was founded in 1939 at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
Meier grew up in Delaware, Ohio, and went to Kenyon College as an undergraduate.
Although he enjoyed his job, the father of two young children said his family was ready for an adventure. He was excited to see the posting of the executive director job at the UA Poetry Center last year.
"I knew about the center before through some online resources," he says. "I hadn't been to Tucson at all previously. We were really excited about an adventure, and what a dream job at the same time."
Since moving to Tucson in July, Meier said his family has fallen in love with the city and the University, and has spent a lot of time exploring the Southwest. He is also happy to have more time to dedicate to his own writing. He has had multiple poems published and is working on his first book manuscript.
"I'm excited that this job reinforces that, just by the nature of what I get to be around and think about every day," he says. "The desert is a pretty inspiring place."
Lately, he also has been using carpentry skills he learned during a previous job with a nonprofit company that built low-income housing through AmeriCorps.
"We're working on a house we bought when we moved here that has needed a lot of love to make it more habitable," Meier said. "I've been using some of those B-minus carpentry skills from long ago."
When it comes to his new position, Meier says he is passionate about fostering growth for the center and its staff, volunteers, patrons and visiting writers.
"The hardest part of my job is that there are only 40 hours in the week, and we test that in regular ways," Meier said.
"It's not just a building and it's not just a library collection," he says, adding that it's really a community of people. "It's the kind of people I love being around."
Meier recently took time to speak with LQP about his career.
What was your first job?
There were two jobs that I had in high school. One was at a farm and it was picking vegetables. It was a farm stand called Miller Country Gardens. The other, I worked behind the counter for a family friend in Ohio. They had a store called Mom Wilson's Country Sausage. People would order stuff from the counter and I would package it up. It was a delicatessen, smoked-meat type thing. Sausages, ham – largely pork. They were great jobs I will say, and I learned a lot, but I'm also happy to be doing what I'm doing now.
Describe what you do.
Right now, it's been a lot of learning about how the center works, its history and even the culture of this place – what are those important things that define what it is. There's also been some really fun aspirational thinking about what we want to do next. How do we think about the next steps for the center? What goals do we need to have in place to pursue that aspirational thinking? So, in a nutshell, that's kind of what it has been. Also, setting some of the daily programming, seeing through a lot of the programming that had already been planned for and resources had been allotted for. … We also figure out what kinds of things we want to do that might extend what we're currently doing or change them slightly to take advantage of an idea.
If you didn't have this job, what career would you have?
I was almost a high school English teacher 13 years ago. That could have been what happened, but it didn't. There's a parallel life where maybe that could have happened. I do work with high school students in the summertime in a creative writing workshop and I love that experience, but that is not an everyday experience in terms of going into the same group of students and leading them through a whole semester. Those are high school students who are coming from all over and are really excited about writing.
Who have been your best mentors and why?
I've really loved working with the person I worked with at The Kenyon Review, David Lynn. He's the editor there. I learned so much from him about how that organization works, how to lead a nonprofit successfully, how to set strategic priorities for a nonprofit, and learn which things need to happen in order to make those goals become a reality. He's really been a tremendous mentor and he does it with a style and a grace and an ease, which has been really useful to learn about. I am also learning so much from the former executive director here, Gail Browne, who continues in an advisory capacity. That's been really great. She's taught me so much about the center and how the culture works here, important details about how to get things done in an everyday way, and then just helped introduce me to a lot of the people who are important to what the center is. Those two have been really important. Gail's been so essential to the recent history of this place and helped lead the campaign that helped raise the funds to build this building. So she knows the effort and the energy that all that took.
What career advice would you offer to someone just starting out?
Be opportunistic. You don't know where things will lead, so you have to take advantage of things as they come up. Things happen. Be open to what happens and be opportunistic.
How would you like to spend your retirement?
I would love to still be reading. I would love to still be writing. And I would love to travel and to visit our kids. Those would be the big things. Reading, writing, traveling and kids.