1. Home
  2. Poems & Poets
  3. Browse Poets
  4. Michael C. Blumenthal

Michael C. Blumenthal

Poet Details

b. 1949
Michael C. Blumenthal was born in 1949 in Vineland, New Jersey. A poet, essayist, novelist, and translator, Blumenthal began his career as a lawyer. He earned his JD from Cornell Law School, and later went on to study clinical psychology at Antioch. Blumenthal once commented: “Like many poets, I came to my vocation, one might say, ‘through the back door,’ having struggled through years of seemingly desirable yet (to me) unsatisfying jobs, while ‘stealing’ the time for my true work. The original impetus for my writing, perhaps, was best reflected in a statement made by Robert Mezey—‘I am a man, a Piscean, and unhappy, and therefore I make up poems’—but I feel, now, that my work derives from the healthier (and happier) desire to tap the sources of my own inner wisdom, and to make music of it.”

Blumenthal’s poetry collections include Sympathetic Magic (1980), which won the Water Mark Poets of North America First Book Prize, Laps (1984), winner of the Juniper Prize, Dusty Angel (1999), winner of the Isabella Steward Gardner Prize, And: Poems (2009), and No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012 (2012). Critic Helen Vendler described Blumenthal’s second collection of poetry, Days We Would Rather Know (1982), as “a buoyant and odd new presence to contemporary American poetry.” Vendler pointed out that while Blumenthal’s subjects, such as the Holocaust or mental doubt, might be termed “tragic,” the approach he takes in his poetry creates “poems exhilarating to read, full of lifts and turbulence.” Blumenthal’s later books have also been praised for their gentle wit and penetrating insight. David Yezzi, in Poetry, noted that Blumenthal “writes wonderful satire,” and critic Jay Parini described the poems in Blumenthal’s book And as “truth-giving,” noting their “radical innocence acquired the hard way, by passing through the crucible of experience.”

His novel Weinstock Among the Dying (1993) casts a baleful eye at academia, using the psychoanalytic process as a framing device. The book won the Ribalow Prize for Best Work of Jewish Fiction. He is also the author of the story collection The Greatest Jewish-American Lover in Hungarian History (2014). Blumenthal’s nonfiction includes from When History Enters the House: Essays from Central Europe (1998), a collection of short essays he wrote during his years in central Europe, a remembrance of his youth, All My Mothers and Fathers: A Memoir (2002), a collection of his pieces as a commentator for NPR Just Three Minutes Please: Thinking Around on Public Radio (2013), and “Because They Needed Me”: The Incredible Life of Rita Miljo and Her Struggle to Save the Baboons of South Africa (2015).

The Briggs-Copeland lecturer in poetry at Harvard University from 1983-1992, Blumenthal ultimately became director of its Creative Writing program. From 1992 to 1996 he lived and worked in Budapest, Hungary as a senior Fulbright lecturer. Since then, he has been visiting professor at universities and colleges both in the United States and abroad. His many honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ingram-Merrill Foundation. He received the Lavan Younger Poets Award in 1985, and the poetry prize of the Society for Contemporary Literature in German in 2009. He holds the Copenhaver Distinguished Visiting Chair at West Virginia University.

“I write poetry,” Blumenthal once commented, “quite unashamedly, because I believe, as Howard Nemerov has said, that ‘the beautiful is still among the possible,’ and that it redeems us, and as a screen against (and a reminder of) my own wickedness and complexity. As for my poems, it seems to me that only they can speak of themselves.”

Bibliography

POETRY
  • Sympathetic Magic, Water Mark Press (Huntington, NY), 1980.
  • Days We Would Rather Know, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.
  • Laps, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1984.
  • Against Romance, Viking, 1987.
  • The Wages of Goodness, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1992.
  • Dusty Angel, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1999.
  • Correcting the World: Selected Poetry, Prose, and Essays of Michael Blumenthal, Legal Studies Forum, University of West Virginia Law School, 2007.
  • And: Poems, BOA Editions, 2009.
  • No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012, Etruscan Press (Wilkes-Barre, PA), 2012.
FICTION
  • Weinstock among the Dying (novel), Zoland Books (Cambridge, MA), 1993.
  • The Greatest Jewish-American Lover in Hungarian History (stories), Etruscan Press (Wilkes-Barre, PA), 2014.
NONFICTION
  • (Editor) To Woo and To Wed: Contemporary Poets on Love and Marriage, Poseidon Press (New York, NY), 1992.
  • When History Enters the House: Essays from Central Europe, Pleasure Boat Studio (Port Angeles, WA), 1997.
  • All My Mothers and Fathers: A Memoir, HarperCollins/Perennial (New York, NY), 2002.
  • (Translator) Péter Kántor, Unknown Places, Pleasure Boat Studio (New York, NY), 2010.
  • Just Three Minutes Please: Thinking Around on Public Radio, Vandalia Press, 2013.
  • Because They Needed Me”: The Incredible Life of Rita Miljo and Her Struggle to Save the Baboons of South Africa, Pleasure Boat Studio, 2015.

Also translator of essays and poems from the Hungarian. Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times, Time, Harvard Review, and the Paris Review, among others. His poetry is anthologized in The Harvard Book of Contemporary Poetry, Harvard University Press, 1985.

Further Readings

BOOKS
  • Blumenthal, Michael, Days We Would Rather Know(poems), Viking (New York, NY), 1984.
  • Blumenthal, Michael, All My Mothers and Fathers: A Memoir, HarperCollins/Perennial (New York, NY), 2002.
PERIODICALS
  • Book, March-April, 2002, James Schiff, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. 77.
  • Booklist, March 15, 1998, Brad Hooper, review of When History Enters the House, p. 1196; February 15, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. 975.
  • Boston Globe, March 31, 2002, Amanda Heller, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. E3.
  • Chicago Tribune, March 3, 2002, Dan Santow, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. 6.
  • Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2002, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. 82.
  • Library Journal, December, 1999, Judy Clarence, review of Dusty Angel, p. 140; April 15, 2002, Morris Hounion, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. 86.
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 24, 2002, Dan Benson, review of All My Mothers and Fathers,p. O6.
  • New Republic, April 16, 1984, Helen Vendler, review of Days We Would Rather Know,pp. 37-40.
  • Poetry, May, 2001, David Yezzi, review of Dusty Angel,p. 108.
  • Publishers Weekly, July 26, 1993, review of Weinstock among the Dying, p. 58; March 16, 1998, review of When History Enters the House, p. 47; February 25, 2002, review of All My Mothers and Fathers, pp. 54-55.
ONLINE
  • Michael Blumenthal's personal website,www.michael-blumenthal.com (October 24, 2008).
  • Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Web sitehttp:/ /www.comm.uiuc.edu/icr/ (October 24, 2003), "A Letter to My Students."
  • Lawyers and Poetry,http://www.wvu.edu/http://www.wvu.edu/ (October 23, 2003), biography of Michael Blumenthal.
  • Pleasure Boat Studio,http://www.pbstudio.com/ (October 24, 2003), biography of Michael Blumenthal.
  • Poetry Porch, http:// www.poetryporch.com/ (October 24, 2003), biography of Michael Blumenthal.

Michael C. Blumenthal

Poet Details

b. 1949

Other Information