|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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