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Monday, March 12, 2012


(Samuel Menashe, 1925-2011, American poet)

As an infantryman during the Second World War, Samuel Menashe (1925-2011) fought in France, Belgium, and Germany. He took part in one of the bloodiest conflicts, the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944. In that battle, in just one day, only 29 of Menashe’s company of 190 men were not killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

“When I came back, I heard people talking about what they were going to do next summer,” he later said. “I was amazed that they could talk of that future, next summer. As a result, I lived in the day. For the first few years after the war, each day was the last day. And then it changed. Each day was the only day.”

At first, he wrote stories about his childhood and his years during the war. And then, “one night, I woke up in the middle of the night and a poem started.” His poems are verses of few words, never longer than ten short lines, using very little punctuation. In their brevity and their focus on the sacredness of life and meditations on death, they could be compared to the verses of William Blake. “The more alive you are,” he said, “the more you are aware of death.”


For what I did
And did not do
And do without
In my old age
Rue, not rage
Against that night
We go into,
Sets me straight
On what to do
Before I die —
Sit in the shade,
Look at the sky


dylan said...

I love the fact that this poem is a kind of response to Dylan Thomas's lines in "Do not go gentle":

Old age should burn and rave at close of day:
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I shall have to read more Samuel Menashe!

GretchenJoanna said...

Thank you, Dylan, for clarifying the allusion there. I'd like to read more of this poet.

Elizabeth said...

I definitely agree with Dylan. The allusion adds a whole new dimension to the thinking expressed in the poem, giving even greater depth to what is already quite a thoughtful and emotional poem.

Michael said...

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