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About this poet

Born in Vineland, New Jersey, on March 8, 1949, Michael Blumenthal grew up in a German-speaking home in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. He received his B.A. in philosophy from the State University of New York in Binghamton, in 1969, and J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1974. From 1985 to 1986, he studied clinical psychology at Antioch University and worked in private practice as a psychotherapist with anglophone expatriates in Budapest.

Blumenthal's debut collection, Sympathetic Magic, received the Water Mark Poets of North America First Book Prize in 1980, followed by Days We Would Rather Know (Viking-Penguin, 1984); Laps: A Book-Length Poem (University of Massachusetts Press,1984), which received the Juniper Prize; Against Romance (Viking-Penguin, 1987); The Wages of Goodness (University of Missouri Press, 1992); and Correcting The World: The Selected Poetry & Writings of Michael Blumenthal (University of West Virginia, 2007).

Most recently, Blumenthal published And (BOA Editions, 2009), and Dusty Angel (1999), which received the Isabella Stewart Gardner Prize. Be Kind, Blumenthal's eighth poetry collection, is forthcoming from BOA Editions.

In his foreword to Blumenthal's first book, Charles Fishman wrote: "Like Gerald Stern or David Ignatow, Blumenthal has a genuine comic gift as well as a broad, deep sensibility that encompasses and transforms nearly everything he touches—nearly everything that touches him."

About his work, Grace Schulman has said "Michael Blumenthal has the intelligence to sort out complexities, the innocence to see the world new, and the craft to combine those often incompatible qualities."

Also the author of fiction and non-fiction, Blumenthal has published Weinstock Among the Dying: A Novel (Zoland Books, 1993), which received the Harold U. Ribalow Prize; When History Enters the House: Central European Essays, 1992-1996 (Pleasure Boat Studios, 1998); and All My Mothers and Fathers: A Memoir (Harper-Collins, New York, 2002). The anthology To Woo and To Wed: Poets on Marriage, which he edited, was published by Poseidon Press in 1992.

Blumenthal has also published various prose translations, as well as And Yet: Selected Poems of Péter Kántor (Pleasure Boat Studios, 2009). In 2009, he received the poetry prize of the Society for Contemporary Literature in German.

His other honors include fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, The Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1985, he was selected by the poet Howard Nemerov to receive the Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

Blumenthal has lived in, and taught at universities in Hungary, Israel, Germany and France. He has served as the Copenhaver Distinguished Visiting Chair in Law and is presently a visiting professor at West Virginia University Law School.

Night Baseball

Michael Blumenthal, 1949
[I] retrace by moonlight the roads where I used to play in the sun.
                                                 — Marcel Proust


At night, when I go out to the field
to listen to the birds sleep, the stars
hover like old umpires over the diamond,
and I think back upon the convergences
of bats and balls, of cowhide and the whacked
thumping of cork into its oiled pockets,
and I realize again that our lives pass
like the phased signals of that old coach,
the moon, passing over the pitcher's mound,
like the slowed stride of an aging shortstop
as he lopes over the infield or the stilled echo
of crowds in a wintered stadium. I see again
how all the old heroes have passed on to their
ranches and dealerships, that each new season
ushers in its crop of the promised and promising,
the highly touted and the sudden phenoms of the
unexpected, as if the hailed dispensation of gifts
had realigned itself into a new constellation,
as if the old passages of decrepitude and promise
had been altered into a new seeming. I remember
how once, sliding into second during a steal,
I watched the sun rest like a diadem against the
head of some spectator, and thought to myself
in the neat preutterance of all true feeling,
how even our thieveries, well-done, are blessed
with a certain luminousness, how a man rising
from a pilfered sanctity might still upright himself
and return, like Odysseus, to some plenitude
of feast and fidelity. It is why, even then, I loved
baseball: the fierce legitimacy of the neatly stolen,
the calm and illicit recklessness of the coaches
with their wet palms and arcane tongues of mimicry
and motion. It is why, even now, I steal away
from my wife's warm arms to watch the moon sail
like a well-hit fly over the stadium, then hump
my back high over the pitcher's mound and throw
that old curve of memory toward the plate
where I run for a swing at it—the moon
and the stars approving my middle-aged bravado,
that boy still rising from his theft to find the light.

From Days We Would Rather Know, published by The Viking Press. Copyright © 1984 by Michael Blumenthal. Used by permission of the author.

From Days We Would Rather Know, published by The Viking Press. Copyright © 1984 by Michael Blumenthal. Used by permission of the author.

Michael Blumenthal

Michael Blumenthal

Born in 1949, Michael Blumenthal is the author of several collections of poetry, most recently And (BOA Editions, 2009), and Dusty Angel (1999), which received the Isabella Stewart Gardner Prize

by this poet

poem
Just because a man pulls out your chair for you
and takes your coat at an elegant restaurant 
is no guarantee that he really loves you. You know this,
and so whether he burps or farts over the dinner 
like some sort of Chinese compliment 
does not much matter to you, whether he subscribes
to the high sanctimony
poem
Jew
for Isaac Bashevis Singer


The melancholy of Chopin and cruel breathing
folds back your sheets,
and you rise like lightly leavened bread,
like all the old, arthritic Jews left in the world,
from your Sabbatical sleep.

You rise and wipe the crusted blood
from your doorpost, kiss the angled mezuzah,
and
poem
My grandmother was eighty-nine and blind
and I was a young boy hungry for quarters,
so, in the waning light
of Sunday afternoons, my parents gone,
I would ring the doorbell
(my friend Raymond smirking
from behind the stairwell) and listen
for the slow shuffle of slippers
in the hall, the soft thump
of her body