Samuel Menashe’s poetry has a mysterious simplicity, a spiritual intensity and a lingering emotional force. For over 50 years he 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 lived from the 1950s until 2009. Even in his 80s, Menashe still knew all his poems by heart, and between engaging digressions on poetry, life and death, recites numerous examples with engaging humour, warmth and zest.
‘Menashe is essentially a religious poet, though one without an orthodox creed. Nearly every poem he has ever published radiates a heightened religious awareness’ – Dana Gioia.
For more on Samuel Menashe's life and work, including poems and photographs, please see this page of Bloodaxe Blogs. A short essay by Menashe called 'Giving the Day Its Due' is posted on this page of Bloodaxe Blogs. There is also a listing with links to the many tributes to Samuel Menashe on this page of Bloodaxe Blogs.
Samuel Menashe: excerpt from Life is IMMENSE
This video is an excerpt from Life is IMMENSE: visiting Samuel Menashe, a film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce. This features a visit to Menashe (with Neil Astley) in the tiny New York apartment where he lived from the 1950s until 2009. Even in his 80s, Menashe still knew all his poems by heart, and between engaging digressions on poetry, life and death, he recites numerous examples with engaging humour, warmth and zest. The poems included in this clip are 'Daily Bread', 'Family Silver', 'Night Music (pizzicato)', 'Improvidence' (now suddenly a highly topical poem!) and 'Voyage'. The film is issued on DVD with Samuel Menashe's New & Selected Poems./p>