|Samuel Menashe, 1925-2011
Photo: Librado Romero/New York Times
I was saddened to read about the death of Samuel Menashe, whose wonderful poetry I found by the oddest of accidents. I had volunteered to read for an organization called Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (recently renamed Learning Ally). The first couple of sessions were devoted to poetry textbooks—a dry but necessary task. For my third session, I was handed Samuel Menashe’s New and Selected Poems.
Menashe wrote brief, highly concentrated poems that send subtle vibrations out in various directions at once. They are like pebbles dropped into still water. (You can read some here, here and here.) Well, trust me—never having read him before made reading him aloud a serious challenge.
After reading maybe a dozen poems, I began to develop a feel for his tactful, deeply engaged voice, and the rest of the session (I like to think) produced something useful. In the end, I was forced to imagine my own sight extinguished and hearing, out of nowhere (so to speak), Samuel Menashe’s poetry for the first time. (But one of his great strengths is that one always seems to hearing his poems for the first time.) Maybe a less than excellent reading like mine wouldn’t hamper the poems at all. I was sure it wouldn’t, in fact. They are simply that good.