Sunday, June 11, 2017


Christopher Ricks, who edited Samual Menashe’s New and Selected Poems for the Library of America in 2005 (the first time they had published a living poet), suggested that the price Menashe pays for his poems being so short is that people read too many at a time so that it can feel “as if you’ve been having canapés” instead of a square meal. “Dip, browse, nibble”, Ricks says – quoting another of Menashe’s poems – “that’s what readers of poetry ought to do.”
For Stephen Burt, Menashe’s poems can seem to have “no tone at all . . . no imagined person to whom he speaks, not even himself, no persona who does the speaking, only words arranged as if on an altar”. Elemental truths shorn of almost all human particularity “do not feel lyrical as much as they feel inscriptional, like couplets on gravestones”.
Danielle Chapman in a review of Menashe’s collection The Niche Narrows (2000), in which “Nightfall, Morning” appears after it was first published in the TLS in 1983, the poet’s absence allows his short lyrics to inhabit “a timeless sort of space”.
“Nightfall, Morning” is delicately suspended on precisely this paradox, as the speaker skims the surface of the world the better to explore its depths. Our lives are a text which “days divide” and relationships fill, but the speaker has “no one”. (TLS)

Nightfall, Morning

Eye this sky
With the mind’s eye
Where no light fades
Between the lines
You read at night
Binding that text
Which days divide

   *  *  *  *
I wake and the sky
Is there, intact
The paper is white
The ink is black
My charmed life
Harms no one –
No wife, no son


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