The Forgotten Lower East Side Poet Whose Work Was Popularized and Plagiarized by Hart Crane

Born in Vienna in 1893 to Yiddish-speaking parents who immigrated to Manhattan’s Lower East Side when he was a child, the American Jewish poet Samuel Greenberg died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-three. Greenberg’s poems were first published in 1939, in a posthumous volume reissued this year. But before that Greenberg’s work had already garnered some fame thanks to the Ohio-born American poet Hart Crane, who discovered his manuscripts and liberally plagiarized from them. Neil Arditi tells the story:

Six years after Greenberg’s death, Crane was shown Greenberg’s handwritten poems by a neighbor in Woodstock, [New York], William Fisher, a former curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Greenberg sometimes went to sketch. Fisher had taken an interest in the young poet, giving him books of Emerson, Shelley, Keats, and Browning, and, after his death, taking possession of some of his notebooks for safekeeping and possible publication.

Crane spent several nights excitedly reciting Greenberg’s poems with Fisher and typing up copies of his favorites for personal use. In a letter written at the time, he described Greenberg’s poems as “hobbling but really gorgeous attempts . . . made without any education. . . . No grammar, nor spelling, and scarcely any form, but a quality that is unspeakably eerie and the most convincing gusto.” Greenberg was a “Rimbaud in embryo.” Cutting and pasting from a handful of Greenberg originals, Crane assembled a polished mosaic—“Emblems of Conduct”—and published it under his own name in his first book of poems, White Buildings (1926).

Crane’s first biographer, Philip Horton . . . concluded that Greenberg was a “visionary,” a “Gottbetrunkener Mensch,” no doubt alluding to the German philosopher Novalis’s characterization of Spinoza. As a descriptive term, “God-intoxicated” has limited explanatory power, but Horton was correct to suggest that Greenberg is in some sense a religious poet. It might be less misleading to say that poetry is his religion.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish literature, Lower East Side, Poetry, Vienna

 

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship