Samuel Menashe
Adam Means Earth*


I am the man
Whose name is mud
But what’s in a name
To shame one who knows
Mud does not stain
Clay he’s made of
Dust Adam became--
The dust he was--
Was he his name



*From Adamah, ‘earth’ in Hebrew.



From Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems, edited by Christopher Ricks, published by The Library of America, 2005.  Used by permission of the author.

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  Samuel Menashe was born in 1925 in New York City to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents.  In 1944, he served in the US army infantry in the Von Rundstedt Offensive (aka Battle of the Bulge). After the war, he used his GI Bill money to study at the Sorbonne where he received an advanced degree. In 1961, he garnered the blessing of the British poet Kathleen Raine who arranged for the publication of his first book, No Jerusalem But This, by Victor Gollancz in London. Menashe's short, intense, spiritual poems, which canvass existential dilemmas and use implication and wordplay as a way of deepening the linguistic force of his words, gained wide acclaim in Britain from reviewers such as Donald Davie, who became one of Menashe's most committed backers. He was later included in the Penguin Modern Poets series. Despite much acclaim, Menashe remained marginal on the American poetry scene. He persisted in writing, however, producing several more powerful books culminating in The Niche Narrows in 2000. Prominent poets, critics and editors who have admired Menashe's work include Dana Gioia, Denis Donoghue, Billy Collins, Geordie Greig, and Christopher Ricks. In 2004, Poetry magazine in Chicago awarded Menashe its first Neglected Masters award, which entailed publication of a book of selected poems by the Library of America. This volume, edited by Ricks, appeared in 2005 on the occasion of the poet's 80th birthday, and was widely reviewed. 
                                               
                                               
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