Our 2020 Second Book Fellow is Caits Meissner



There is no doubt that the second book holds special position in a writer’s career—with all of its expectations, hesitations, anxieties, both from the writer’s perspective and the publishers.

We want to make that journey a little easier for our Second Book Fellow—with notes, editorial guidance, networking and marketing support, etc—and we’re honored to announce that Caits Meissner has been chosen for that role!

Her manuscript, currently in our team’s hands for editing and notes, has the working title of Ghosted Planet: “a book of poems that takes on the sticky territory of morality and our culture of violence, through what I think are more unexpected angles. Inspired by my deep work in American prisons, I understand our punitive culture is one that does not work to protect, heal or transforms, but also propels the question: is violence inherent, and if so, how DO we deal with it on scales that affect individuals, community and the ecology of our shared world? It is an ambitious set of questions, and the book isn’t linear in its exploration…

My ​quiet ​hope​, beyond crafting affecting stories, of course, ​is for readers to move closer to considering the humanity of all individuals in our society, including those deemed criminal—entering a voice that could, and may strongly at times, resemble themselves.”

Meissner’s first book of poems, Let It Die Hungry, was released on The Operating System press in 2016. The description reads: “Meissner’s coming-of-age poems seek to anchor their place in a messy world, blurring the edges of hard borders and disparate identities. Finding joy, connection and determination in desperate spaces, as well as the slippery terrain of a changing self, Meissner’s voice is at once a reckoning, a proclamation, and an open question. Sprinkled with the author’s illustrations, the book’s multidisciplinary approach also includes lesson plans, originally utilized in a women’s prison, that invite the reader to write their own way out of polarizing dichotomies—and into the vast grey space of what it means to be alive.” The book was blurbed by Aracelis Girmay, John Murrillo, Bianca Stone and David Groff, and was reviewed favorably in New Pages, Columbia Journal, 3:AM Magazine, Hazel & Wren’s What We’re Reading column. It was listed as an Editor’s Pick on New Pages Book Stand, and a recommended reading on Small Press Distribution.


Caits Meissner is the author of the illustrated hybrid poetry book Let it Die Hungry (The Operating System, 2016), and The Letter All Your Friends Have Written You (Well&Often, 2012), a limited edition chapbook co-authored with poet Tishon Woolcock. The recipient of multiple residencies and fellowships including the BOAAT Writers Retreat and The Pan-African Literary Forum, Caits’ poetry, essays, fiction and literary comics are published in The Guardian, The Literary Review, Narrative, Adroit, Drunken Boat, The Rumpus, VIDA Literary Review, The Feminist Wire, The Normal School, Gigantic Sequins, SmokeLong and The Offing, among many others.

Caits holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York where she where she was awarded The Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Creative Writing, an Educational Enrichment Award and The Teacher-Writer Award. A multidisciplinary creator, Caits experiments with writing’s relationship to visual art and sound. She holds a BFA in Communication Design from Pratt Institute and has used her illustrated and design skills to create comics, zines and other illustrated material. In 2010 she released the wolf & me, an album that Okayplayer named “an impressive blend of poetry, singing and stellar production that takes on a variety of complexions.” Erykah Badu called her blend of poetry and music, “Fresh, honest and loving,” with “a delicate heart like mine.”