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Honoring Samuel Menashe: 1925-2011

by Brian P. Kelly

Posted: Aug 25, 2011 12:07 PM


Menashe writes an untitled poem on the beach: "Pity us / by the sea / on the sands / so briefly"
Photograph by Martin Duffy

The New Criterion is saddened by the loss of a superb poet and a friend, Samuel Menashe who passed away in his sleep on Monday.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, Menashe attended Townsend Harris High School and then Queens College. In 1943 he left school to enlist in the army and fought in World War II, most notably in the Battle of the Bulge. Following the war, Menashe used the GI Bill to sail to France and earn his degree at the Sorbonne. He returned to America, taught briefly, and worked odd jobs to support his writing.

First published in 1956 in The Yale Review, Menashe struggled to find success in America. However, in the UK he garnered a committed following and, with the help of fellow poet Kathleen Raine, published his first collection, No Jerusalem But Thism, in 1961. Several other books followed, including Fringe of Fire (1973), To Open (1976), and The Niche Narrows (2000).

Eventually, he would be recognized in America, and in 2004 he won the first "Neglected Masters Award" from the Poetry Foundation. The award included a publishing deal.  In 2005, Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems was released by The Library of America.

Samuel Menashe was a regular face at The New Criterion's gatherings and holiday parties, and his Due soldi di speranze was published in our February issue from 2005. He will be greatly missed.

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