By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Much of Levi Mericle’s poetry comes from pain, but to an avid Facebook following measured in thousands, the Tucumcari resident’s work brings enlightenment.
His verse has rhythm and rhyme, but greeting-card doggerel it is not.
Mericle’s intense verses speak of his own experiences with physical illness and the dark side of both the mania and despair of bipolar disorder. He writes of isolation and bullying, of the twisted logic of pain and poses questions that challenge his Christian faith.
He read some of his work to a gathering of friends, family and supporters Friday evening at the Tapestry of Sound Studio and Boutique, giving a first live reading of his written verses. His reading was the first of what Tapestry of Sound owner Rick Haymaker hopes to become a regular series of performances by local artists. For Mericle, 26, however, the live reading was a revelation, giving him hope that his poetry career will takes off.
On Facebook, his work has achieved international notice. A review of his work appears in French in Premier magazine, a film magazine that also features pop-culture literary reviews. The writer, who notes Mericle’s following of about 2,000 in the U.S., notes Mericle’s inspirations from Edgar Allen Poe, whose prose and poetry introduced American literature to the macabre, and H.P. Lovecraft, a pulp-magazine writer of the early 20th Century whose work inspired Stephen King and Peter Straub, who call Lovecraft the father of modern horror.
“We are placed under his spell, our weaknesses snared,” the Premier reviewer writes of Mericle’s verses, “as in the tradition of writing in the nineteenth century and (Chuck) Palahnuik (writer of “The Fight Club”) — but would befit MTV and contemporary American drama, too.”
On Mericle’s Facebook site, the Premiere article notes, “there are heaps of other texts by Mericle which work on toying with and perverting our sense of reality and security. The twists in his work are timely and done well enough so that the element of surprise … works to its fullest.”
In one poem, Mericle observes,
“God doesn’t mistake the quake of his hand
The colder the shoulder the weaker the man.”
In that same poem is this imagery:
“The blisters have festered on yesterday’s news
The rainbows are shadowed and callused from clues.”
In another work, there are these lines:
“Their shrilling speech will grind the mind
Like stones against a pier.”
Mericle’s talent is contained in a package that has also included crippling physical ailments that affect bones and hormones. He confesses to past struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, including constant hand-washing, and current dealings with bipolar disorder, which alternately produces dark depressions and, even in its manic phases, irritability and impatience.
At times, he has also been a “cutter,” someone who self-inflicts wounds compulsively to experience pain, and a sniffer of paints and glues. At ages 14 and 15, he said, he attempted suicide.
Through these difficulties, however, he has had the full support of his family. His mother, Dena Mericle, said that since she, too, is bipolar, she can understand. His aunt, Vicki Stuchel, who teaches juvenile inmates at the Quay County Detention Center, has a background in journalism and writing, and gives Mericle great encouragement.
“I wouldn’t be afraid to tell him if the talent wasn’t there,” she said, “but it is.”
In treatment after a suicide attempt, Mericle said, he told a doctor that his family was not the problem.
“I’m wired incorrectly,” he remembers telling the physician.
Mericle has yet to be published, even though he has been reviewed. He calls himself a song lyricist, as well as a “pure” poet and has received praise from artists to whom he has sent his work for review.
Sue Dempster, agent for Christian musician John Schlitt and the band Petra, called Mericle’s work, “candid, thinly veiled” autobiography, and as “deep and Gothic poetry.”
And the Premier magazine reviewer believes Mericle the poet is likely to be influential.
“The future of the popular poem is here in his searing, amazing and wrung out poetry, which cuts to the heart and offers us dark tokens of gesture vis-à-vis our take on reality,” the review writes. “There are thousands of poets fidgeting with words in dark places in hotel rooms whilst on holiday, but Levi J. Mericle is one of the craftsmen of the movement in Spectacular Poetry.”