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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.

The European Shoe

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.

The European Shoe pressed against the fugitive's nose, preventing it
    from imminent departure.

The European Shoe spends summers in delightful ways. A lady feels its 
    subtle and unexpected pressure the length of her decolletage. 
    (It winters in pain).

That time I lent you my European Shoe you departed with a look of 
    grandeur, and in total disrepair. 

The European Shoe knocks on the door of the carefree farmerette. "The 
    harvest has been gathered in, ha, ha," it says, moving shyly forth 
    along the edge of the couch.

I pointed to the European Shoe. I ate the European Shoe. I married 
    the European Shoe.

Tears fall from the eye of the European Shoe as it waves goodbye to us 
    from the back balcony of the speeding train...

It helps an old lady, extremely crippled and arthritic, move an 
    enormous cornerstone. It invents a watch which, when wound up 
    tightly, flies completely to pieces. 

It was a simple and dignified ceremony, distinguished for its gales of
    uncontrollable laughter, in which I married the European Shoe.

If it rains, the European Shoe becomes very heavy. I failed to cross 
    the river, where thousands of European Shoes lay capsized.

And so we lived alone, we two, the envy of our neighborhood, the 
    delight of our lively hordes of children.

I saw a flightful of graceful sparrows heading to distant, 
    half-forgotten islands, over the distant seas; and in the midst of 
    that annually questing company, I saw the European Shoe. 

It never harmed anyone, and yet it never really helped anyone.

Gaily it sets out into the depths of my profoundest closet, to do 
    battle with the dusts of summer....

From The Body, published by Wesleyan University Press, 1968. Copyright © 1968 by Michael Benedikt. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

From The Body, published by Wesleyan University Press, 1968. Copyright © 1968 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

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
True, I have always been happy that all the things that are inside 
    the body are inside the body, and that all things outside 
    the body, are out

I'm glad to find my lungs on the inside of my chest, for example; 
    if they were outside, they'd keep getting in the way, 
    those two great incipient
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