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The Glass Bubbles

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The motion of gathering loops of water
Must either burst or remain in a moment.
The violet colors through the glass
Throw up little swellings that appear
And spatter as soon as another strikes
And is born; so pure are they of colored
Hues, that we feel the absent strength
Of its power. When they begin they gather
Like sand on the beach: each bubble
Contains a complete eye of water.

Source: The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford University Press, 2006)
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The Glass Bubbles

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  • 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 Though his work was unpublished during his lifetime, he had a profound effect on Hart Crane, who took inspiration from Greenberg’s sonically dense and richly imaged lyricism; scholars also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...

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