|(Samuel Menashe, photo by Martin Duffy)|
Sitting in front of the screen, being radiated at, has left me clamoring like a drunk for the clear water glass of poetry.
On our drive up to Maine over Labor Day Weekend, we stopped in Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a look at the transporter bridge, the harbor, and a quick lunch. In a local bookstore, I decided to stick to verse and there encountered two poets--Meg Kearney and Jack Gilbert. Kearney's words about life, sex, drinking, divorce and death dig wells wear tears and laughter are stored. I bought her book, "Home by Now," which won the 2010 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award for Poetry. Whereas Kearney stays close to home, Gilbert sets his sights higher, beyond mere local rooftops, though winds up deep in the earth just as well. I bought his "Refusing Heaven," which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.
Returning home from Maine I remembered that Samuel Menashe had died and remembering to remember I picked up his "New and Selected Poems" published by the Library of America. I will shamefully admit that Menashe, as old and venerated as he was, was a discovery for me. And perhaps as such, proof that death is a relative idea. His words, his voice, his playfulness is so startlingly alive.
Over the course of the last couple weeks, I've taken Menashe on my walks with the dog. Black letters on a small page, like the beasts footsteps on a sidewalk square, we trod along. The rhythm of one sniffs and nudges life along, drawing attention to a turn in the wind, a chipmunk hidden in the ivy, a warbler alighting, briefly, before moving on; while the other creature, his body now in the ground but his soul on fire, the book, warm in my hands.
Thank God for these poets, for these pages, for these words: who on these walks are read aloud by one who seeks to banish into darkness the radium paths of information seekers, blind to deep knowing. Ah, but in that darkness, ink blotted into lettered form, truth speaks:
Dusk of the year
More than we knew
Abounded on trees
We now see through.
--Samuel Menashe (1925-2011)