Edited by Christopher Ricks.
Samuel Menashe’s poetry has a mysterious simplicity, a spiritual intensity and a lingering emotional force. For the past 50 years he has practised his art of "compression and crystallisation" (in Derek Mahon’s phrase) in poems that are brief in form but profound in their engagement with ultimate questions. As Stephen Spender wrote, Menashe "compresses thought into language intense and clear as diamonds".
Intensely musical and rigorously constructed, Menashe’s work stands apart in its solitary meditative power, but it is equally a poetry of the everyday. The humblest of objects, the minutest of natural forms, here become powerfully suggestive, and even the shortest of the poems are spacious in the perspectives they open.
Expanded from its original Library of America compilation, this edition covers the full range of his work, from the early collections to very recent work, and includes a DVD of Life Is Immense: Visiting Samuel Menashe, a film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce. This features a visit to Menashe in the tiny apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village where he has lived since the 1950s. Now in his 80s, Menashe still knows all his poems by heart, and between engaging digressions on poetry, life and death, recites numerous examples with engaging humour, warmth and zest.
"There are other mystics in American poetry, other poets of gnomic suggestion, other memorialists, and others who do well with rhyme, but there is no poet after Dickinson who brings all those talents together as securely as Menashe."
Stephen Burt, TLS
"His rediscovery, on both sides of the Atlantic, is a major event, because he is one of the finest poets alive."
Clive Wilmer, The Guardian
"All that needs to be said is that Menashe is a once-off and that we shall not see his like again – but once is enough for a miracle."
Brian Lynch, Irish Times
"Menashe is essentially a religious poet, though one without an orthodox creed. Nearly every poem he has ever published radiates a heightened religious awareness."
"Many of his poems are minute, like microscopic slides that need focus and concentration to reveal deep wonders."
Samuel Menashe was born in New York City in 1925, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. He served in the US infantry during the Second World War, and afterwards studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. He returned to New York in the 1950s where, with frequent sojourns in Britain, Ireland and Europe, he has lived ever since. He was first published in Britain, thanks to Kathleen Raine, in 1961, before he achieved any recognition in America, where he remained a marginal figure over five decades. In 1996 a selection of his work was published in the Penguin Modern Poets series. In 2004 he became the first winner of the Poetry Foundation’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.