Biography of Samuel Menashe
an American poet. Born in New York City as Samuel Menashe Weisberg, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Menashe grew up in Elmhurst, Queens, and graduated from Townsend Harris High School and Queens College. During World War II he served in the US Army infantry, and in 1944 fought in the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he used his GI Bill money to study at the Sorbonne where he received an advanced degree.
In the 1950s, Menashe returned to New York where, except for frequent sojourns in England and Ireland, he lived most of his life. In 1961, he garnered the blessing of the British poet Kathleen Raine who arranged for his first book, The Many Named Beloved, to be published by Victor Gollancz in London. Menashe's short, intense, spiritual poems, which canvass existential dilemmas and use implication and wordplay as a way of deepening the linguistic force of his words, gained wide acclaim in Britain from reviewers such as Donald Davie, who became one of Menashe's most committed backers. He was later included in the Penguin Modern Poets series.
Despite much acclaim, Menashe remained marginal on the American poetry scene. He persisted in writing, however, producing several more powerful books culminating in The Niche Narrows in 2000. Prominent poets, critics and editors who have admired Menashe's work include Dana Gioia, Denis Donoghue, Billy Collins, Geordie Greig, and Christopher Ricks.
In 2004 he became the first poet honored with the "Neglected Masters Award" given by Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation. The award was also to include a book to be published by the Library of America, which turned out to be a "Selected Poems" edited by Ricks. This volume appeared in 2005 on the occasion of the poet's 80th birthday, and was widely reviewed. A revised edition, with ten additional poems, was published in 2008. Bloodaxe Books in the UK published the volume (which also contained a DVD film about the poet's life and work) in 2009.
Menashe was also a teacher and writing instructor. During the 1960s, he taught literature and poetry courses at C. W. Post College. Previously, he taught at Bard College.
Menashe died in his sleep in New York on August 22, 2011.
Samuel Menashe's Works:
The Many Named Beloved (1961)
Penguin Modern Poets, vol. 7 of the 2nd series (1966). Poems by Donald Davie, Samuel Menashe, and Allen Curnow.
No Jerusalem But This (1971)
Fringe of Fire (1973)
To Open (1974)
Collected Poems (1986)
The Niche Narrows (2000)
New and Selected Poems (2005)
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Samuel Menashe Poems
Salt And Pepper
Here and there White hairs appear On my chest— Age seasons me
Sheets entangle him Naked on his bed Like a toppled mast Slack sails bedeck
Forever And A Day
No more than that Dead cat shall I Escape the corpse I kept in shape
Let’s make believe I am happy, I laugh Black poison, all of me Its bottleful,
In a doorway Staring at rain Simple withstands Time on his hands
Scribe out of work At a loss for words Not his to begin with, The man life passed by
Sharpen your wit— Each half of it— Before you shut Scissors to cut
Old as I am This candle I light For you today May be the last one
A- round my neck an amu- let
At Cross Purposes
Is this writing mine Whose name is this Did I underline What I was to miss?
A Pot Poured Out
A pot poured out Fulfills its spout
Stone worn Overgrown Pristine thorns Sheep shorn
Now and again I am here now And now is when I’m here again
Boughs berserk Spin one hill Into space Standing still
At A Standstill
The statue, that cast
Of my solitude
Has found its niche
In this kitchen
Where I do not eat
Where the bathtub stands
Upon cat feet—
I did not advance
I cannot retreat