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September 16: The Neglected Samuel Menashe

September 15, 2016
Poet Samuel Menashe, who in 2004 became the first poet honored with the Poetry Foundation’s “Neglected Masters Award,” was born in New York on this date in 1925. William Grimes described him (in a 2011 New York Times obituary) as “a Greenwich Village poet whose jewel-like, gnomic short verse won him an ardent following in Britain and belated recognition in the United States.” Menashe “specialized in very short, often unpunctuated poems of less than 10 lines, with a religious or metaphysical bent.” His first book published in the U.S. was No Jerusalem but This, a 1971 collection of poems on Jewish themes that was described by Stephen Spender as “compress[ing] thoughts and sensations into language intense and clear as diamonds.” Menashe earned a degree at the Sorbonne in 1950, following war experiences that included participation in the Battle of the Bulge, in which 161 of the 190 men in his company were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Menashe occasionally taught literature (at Bard and C. W. Post College), but primarily earned his living on the fly as a tour bus guide, a cruise ship lecturer, and in various odd jobs. His other poetry collections included Fringe of Fire (1973), To Open (1974) and Collected Poems, published by the National Poetry Foundation in 1986. To meet him (in an excerpt from a film about him), look below. “In my coat I sit At the window sill Wintering with snow That did not melt It fell long ago At night, by stealth I was where I am When the snow began” --Samuel Menashe