Yesterday, the poet Samuel Menashe read some of his work at the 96th Street branch of the New York Public Library. Also on the bill and reading their own work were poets Ilya Bernstein, Jon Curley and Michael Heller.
I’ve written previously about Samuel Menashe’s most recent collection, New and Selected Poems.And at eighty-five years of age, he continues to compose new poems. He is famous for the brevity, depth and quiet power of his writing.
With his kind permission, I recorded a video clip of Menashe’s appearance at the library. It can be watched below and is about 30 minutes in length. It begins as Menashe is offering some background on his World War II poem, “All My Friends Are Homeless.” His style is to offer some words of context or stories connected with the poem, then to recite the poem, then perhaps to say a few more words, and then usually to recite the poem again. You’ll quickly understand why if you do watch and listen to the clip.
It’s funny: Although one’s enjoyment of Menashe’s poems certainly can increase from the context he offers when publicly reading them, I think that — more perhaps than many contemporary poets — his tiny poems also stand up quite straight and strong on the page without any added context whatsoever. It is one of those things that prove him to be a truly great poet, I must suppose.