Fiction, including two novels and two O’Henry Awards, came first; then, late in his career, poetry became more important. Peter Weltner ’64 began writing poetry seriously in 2006 when he retired from teaching literature at San Francisco State University. He has kept at it, publishing with small presses and steadfast satisfaction.
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For him, writing poetry was inevitable. “Making art is bound up with life’s fundamental questions and trying to come to grips with essential experiences,” he says. “It's drawn out of you, out of the necessity to confront these things, not something that you make a choice about. And then what you try to find is the right language for it.”
His first poetry book appeared in 2010 — News from the World at My Birth: A History, published by Standing Stone Books, which was co-founded by Robert Colley ’66 P’19. It was followed by 14 more books, two including both poetry and stories. The most recent books, released in 2020, are Late Thoughts and In the Half Light.
His body of work is large, but think twice before describing him as “prolific.” “It's one of those things that, when people don't know what else to say, they say, ‘My God, you're prolific.’ I guess it's true, but I don't know quite what it means, except that I publish a lot of books,” Weltner observes. Then he’ll point out that he is by no stretch a famous poet. But fame isn’t the point for him. He has other concerns.
“You know, I think the work is good work. I think that's true, particularly over the last five years,” he says.