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About this poet

Michael Benedikt was born in 1935 in New York City. He received his BA from New York University and earned a master's degree in English and comparative literature from Columbia University. He was an editorial assistant for Horizon Press from 1959 to 1962, and in 1963-64 served as managing editor for the literary magazine Locus Solus.

Prior to publishing his first collection of poetry, Benedikt co-edited three anthologies of 20th-Century Poetic Theatre from abroad: Modern French Theatre: The Avant-Garde, Dada, & Surrealism (Dutton, 1964); Post-War German Theatre (Dutton, 1966); and Modern Spanish Theatre (Dutton, 1967). His anthology of twentieth-century American plays, Theatre Experiment (Doubleday), was issued in 1968. He is also the editor of two landmark anthologies of twentieth-century poetry: The Poetry of Surrealism (Little Brown & Co., 1974); and The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell, 1976). A critical Festschrift, Benedikt: A Profile was issued by Grilled Flowers Press in 1978. Benedikt was poetry editor for The Paris Review from 1975 to 1978. His editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology (1990). Occasionally active as a literary critic and journalist, he was also an associate editor of Art News and Art International. His literary criticism has appeared in Poetry and The American Book Review.

Benedikt's books of poetry include The Badminton at Great Barrington; or, Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), Night Cries (Wesleyan University Press, 1976), Mole Notes (Wesleyan University Press, 1971), Sky (Wesleyan University Press, 1970), and The Body (Wesleyan University Press 1968). His poems have also appeared in Agni, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and Partisan Review. His honors include a New York State Council for the Arts Grant, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and an NEA Fellowship. He has taught at Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence College, Vassar College, Hampshire Colleges, and Boston University. Michael Benedikt died on February 9, 2007.

Of Seals, and Our Smiles

Michael Benedikt
The last time they did any harm to anyone was probably thousands 
    of years ago;--therefore we catch them and cut them up into coats,
Their frolicsomeness, too, sliced up by contemptuous human analysis;
Yes, through the binoculars of the human in the dinghy, like a text
    beneath some mad scientist's magnifying-glass
The seals as they cavort, tend to scan like some pre-prepared,
    allegedly amusing, and gloriously convenient gloss which only 
    tells us

That the weak are only here on this our sad planet to be hurt.

The last time they did any harm to anyone was probably thousands 
    of years ago;--therefore we find them in the circus, like 
    purportedly hilarious characters, forced by us to be terribly 
    funny
On multicolored stands, noses pressed up against old auto-horns,
Falling all over themselves, and performing national anthems such
    as "God Bless America"; "God Save The King"; and, sometimes,
    occasionally still, "The Internationale"
--Half-Starved for a half-rotten fish, and the target
Of our ancient disrespect, secret loathing, and  finally outright
    public contempt

Since the weak are only here on this our sad planet to be hurt.

Gaze, gaze again, oh Humans of Goodwill, upon more of what
    even our children typically can see--
Examine, for example, the sight of a seal coming out of its
    little white hut in a crowded city zoo; and then, as it raises 
    its remaining nose to sniff the city air
Slipping on a banana-peel; and, oh yes, let's examine all the
    uproarious reactions to that, as the creature falls

For as long as the weak are only here on this our sad planet
    to be hurt.

From The Poetry Society America Journal, 1984. Copyright © 1984 and Copyright © 1999 by Michael Benedikt. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

From The Poetry Society America Journal, 1984. Copyright © 1984 and Copyright © 1999 by Michael Benedikt. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Michael Benedikt

Michael Benedikt

Poet, editor, literary critic, and teacher Michael Benedikt was born in 1935 in New York City.

by this poet

poem

This is what it was: Sometime in the recent but until now unrecorded past, it was decided by certain ingenious and commercially forward-looking cattle-ranchers in a certain large, modern Western nation which prides itself on being nutritionally forward-looking, that since people are increasingly nutrition-

poem
If were on Mars, and wanted to get back-to-home, I would 
Hail a taxi. There's nothing I like better
Than hailing a taxi, they have saved me many times
From the spectre of fiscal responsibility. From the bottom
Of a well comes my voice, hailing a taxi: "Get Me 
Out Of This Oubliette"! Beside the bed where I make
poem
The European Shoe is covered with grass and reed, bound up and wound
    around so that it may slip easily over the wearer's head.

In case you are an aircraft pilot, you must take care that the 
    European Shoe does not creep off your foot, and begin to 
    make its way carefully across the fusilage