About Samuel Menashe

Samuel Menashe (1925 - 2011) enlisted in 1943, and was sent to the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, then to England (Cheshire) for further training. His division fought in France, Belgium (The Battle of the Bulge) and Germany. In 1950 he was awarded a Doctorat d'Université by the Sorbonne. His first book was published, thanks to Kathleen Raine, in London in 1961. He was the inaugural winner of Poetry magazine's Neglected Masters award, a prize that both pays tribute to his excellence and makes reparation for the years in which his achievements were overlooked. However, he had had powerful admirers during that time, including Donald Davie, Austin Clarke, P N Furbank and Billy Collins. His New and Selected Poems, introduced by Christopher Ricks, was published in 2005 by the Library of America.

Menashe's poems are intensely condensed, very few being longer than a dozen short lines, and delight in their patterning of sounds. These are not fixed forms, but poems that follow the method Menashe suggests when he introduces 'Cargo' by saying "I never wrote a sonnet, but it seems to me to have the formality of a sonnet", a method well described by Stephen Spender when he claimed that Menashe "compresses thought into language intense and clear as diamonds."

There is an attention within these poems that is committed to the themes of religious poetry, alluding often to the Old Testament. This can range from 'The Shrine Whose Shape I Am', to 'Adam Means Earth', which takes the fact of its title to examine the nature of human existence. In other poems, subjects range from death, dreams and the sea to more domestic matters, such as the woman noticed in a window across the street who becomes the focus of 'Tenement Spring' - everything in Menashe's poetry becomes valued and significant.

'Tenement Spring' is followed in this recording by a brief story about the writing of the poem; many others carry introductions and postscripts from Menashe, who further humanises the whole performance with a voice that is resonant yet relaxed. Reciting from memory, he makes clear why Alan Brownjohn, in the Sunday Times, found that these poems "have their own distinct, offbeat twang, and stay in the memory."

His recording was made in August 2002 at the poet's home in New York City, and was produced by Jeffrey Wertz.

Samuel Menashe's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"Rhetoric comes from the quarrel one has with the world. Poetry comes from the quarrel one has with oneself." - WB Yeats

Additional material and useful links

Bloodaxe book 2009

Bloodaxe Books have published a new edition of Samuel Menashe's work complete with a DVD called LIFE IS IMMENSE: VISITING SAMUEL MENASHE. The film, by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, was shot in the...

http://www.bloodaxebooks.com/titlepage.asp?isbn=1852248408

Samuel Menashe

A portrait of poet Samuel Menashe, produced by Emily Botein.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/audioitem.html?id=46

Selected bibliography

Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems, Library of...

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The Niche Narrows: New and Selected Poems, Talisman...

Penguin Modern Poets 7, Penguin 1996

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Collected Poems, University of Maine 1986

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To Open, Viking Press 1974 - out of print

Fringe of Fire, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1973 - out of print

No Jerusalem But This, October House, 1971 - out of...

The Many Named Beloved, Victor Gollancz Ltd 1961 - out...

Prizes

2004 Neglected Masters Award

Prize website

Recordings

Samuel Menashe

Samuel Menashe Reading from his Poems

1Roads Run Forever...

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2Warrior Wisdom

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3All my friends are homeless...

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4Winter

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5The Dead of Winter

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6Downpour

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7AprilX

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8April (Fool)

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9Sudden Shadow

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10She who saw the moon last night...

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11The Bare Tree

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12The Host

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13Landmark

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14Family Plot

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15Awakening from Dreams

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16Oh lady lonely as a stone...

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17The friends of my father

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18Full Fathom Five

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19Descent

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20Memento Mori

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21Forever and a Day

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22At a Standstill

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23The Oracle

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24On the Level

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25Self Employed

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26Curriculum Vitae

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27In my Digs

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28Tenement Spring

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29A pot poured out...

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30Off the Wall

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31Pity Us

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32At Millay's Grave

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33Take any man...

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34Telescoped

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35O Many Named Beloved

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36Promised Land

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37Adam Means Earth

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38Reeds Rise from Water

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39Manna

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40Stone would be water...

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41If I were as lean as I feel...

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42The Shrine Whose Shape I Am

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43As the tall, turbaned...

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44Old as the Hills

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45Shade

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46Just Now

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47Gray Boulder

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48Rural Sunrise

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49Waterfall

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50Pastoral

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51Star-Crossed

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52Western Wind

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53Sleep

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54Dreaming

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55Dreams

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56Home Movie

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57Inklings

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58What to Expect

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59The Visitation

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60Anonymous

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61The Living End

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62Transplant

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63The Niche

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64Pirate

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65Voyage

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66Cargo

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67Birds

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68Eyes

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69The Sandpiper

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70On My Birthday

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71A Bronze Head

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72Sunset, Central Park

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73Night Music (Pizzicato)

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74Family Silver

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75Improvidence

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76Dominion

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77Salt and Pepper

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78Walking Stick

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79Sparrow

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81Nightwalk

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80The room of my friend...

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82All my life when I woke up at night...

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83Someone Walked Over My Grave

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84Triptych

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85Le Lac Secret

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86Survival

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87Red Glints in Black Hair

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88Scissors

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89When

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A tour of the Archive with Sherrie Talgeri

Poetry is life with line-breaks – a personal matter – and I hope that this six poem mixtape I’ve chosen will...

Featured Guided Tours


Books by Samuel Menashe