“Who was Samuel Greenberg?” editor Garrett Caples asks: “The short answer is ‘the dead, unknown poet Hart Crane plagiarized.’” In the winter of 1923, Crane was given some of Greenberg’s notebooks and called him “a Rimbaud in embryo.” Crane included many of Greenberg’s lines, uncredited and slightly changed, in his own poetry. Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts was edited by James Laughlin, who first published it in 1939. As well as Laughlin’s original essay, Caples includes a new selection of poems from Greenberg’s notebooks, along with some of his prose. Now the work of this mysterious, impoverished, proto-surrealist American poet, who never published a word in his life, is available to a new generation of readers.
The largely self-taught author died from TB in 1917 aged 23, but works such as this fully deserve their place in the history of modernist poetry.
His favorite word for what he sought in poetry was “charm,” and perhaps his most pervasive quality is an alluring whimsicality…Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts is, as Caples puts it, “a reasonable stop-gap, as a way to bring this work before a new generation of readers.” As stop-gaps go, it has a great deal to recommend it. Laughlin’s volume, with its still-vivid essay and thoughtful selection of 22 of Greenberg’s lyrics, remains a classic, and Caples has supplemented it with 10 more poems and three prose pieces, including “Between Historical Life,” Greenberg’s moving autobiographical narrative.
—Jewish Review of Books
…a radical form of sprung lyric—a wild, sound-wracked syntactic syncretism that verges on the abstract and the rhapsodic…