Samuel Greenberg

1893–1917
Samuel GreenbergSelf-portrait by Samuel Greenberg, courtesy of the Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University.
Samuel Greenberg was born in Vienna, Austria in 1893. He came to New York when he was seven and lived, first in poverty and then in a series of charity hospitals, on the Lower East Side. Greenberg died on Wards Island at age 23 of tuberculosis. Though his work was unpublished during his lifetime, he had a profound effect on Hart Crane, who took inspiration from Greenberg’s sonically dense and richly imaged lyricism; scholars also note that Crane, in his poem “Emblems of Conduct,” took actual lines of Greenberg’s poetry, slightly altered, as his own.
 
James Laughlin first published a selection of Greenberg’s poems as Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts in 1939. Harold Holden and Jack McManis edited a more comprehensive overview, which included Greenberg’s autobiographical piece “Between Historical Life,” in Poems by Samuel Greenberg: A Selection from the Manuscripts (1947). Self Charm: Selected Sonnets and Other Poems, another selection of Greenberg’s work,was edited by Michael Carr and Michael Smith and published in 2005.
 
Sometimes described as a “second-wave Modernist,” and said to have anticipated surrealism, Greenberg’s work is known for its semantic and syntactic idiosyncrasies and strange flights of diction; Charles Bernstein has called Greenberg’s poetry “a radical form of sprung lyric—a wild, sound-wracked syntactic syncretism that verges on the abstract and the rhapsodic, which I associate with Crane and Hopkins (and which also brings Blake to mind), but might also be described as a cross between Leo Gorcey reciting Shakespeare and the poetical works of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.” Greenberg’s papers, including over 600 poems and fifteen notebooks, are housed in the Fales Collection at New York University.

Discover this poet’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Articles About SAMUEL GREENBERG

Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

LIFE SPAN 1893–1917

Samuel Greenberg

Biography

Samuel Greenberg was born in Vienna, Austria in 1893. He came to New York when he was seven and lived, first in poverty and then in a series of charity hospitals, on the Lower East Side. Greenberg died on Wards Island at age 23 of tuberculosis. Though his work was unpublished during his lifetime, he had a profound effect on Hart Crane, who took inspiration from Greenberg’s sonically dense and richly imaged lyricism; scholars . . .

Report a problem with this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.