Michael Blumenthal graduated from the Cornell Law School with a J.D. degree in 1974, after studying philosophy and economics at the State U. of New York at Binghamton. His seventh book of poems, And, was published by BOA Editions in May, 2009. A graduate of Cornell Law School and formerly Director of Creative Writing at Harvard, he is the author of the memoir All My Mothers and Fathers (Harper Collins, 2002), and of Dusty Angel (BOA Editions, 1999). His novel Weinstock Among The Dying, which won Hadassah Magazine's Harold U. Ribelow Prize for the best work of Jewish fiction, has recently been re-issued in paperback, and his collection of essays from Central Europe, When History Enters the House, was published in 1998.

A frequent translator from the German, French and Hungarian, he has practiced psychotherapy with Anglophone expatriates in Budapest and still spends summers at his house in a small village near the shores of Lake Balaton in Hungary. In May of 2007, he spent a month in South Africa working with orphaned infant chacma baboons at the C.A.R.E. foundation in Phalaborwa, an experience about which he has written for Natural History and The Washington Post Magazine, and in  upcoming book from Aequitas Press called “Because They Needed Me”: Rita Miljo, and the Orphaned Baboons of South Africa. He currently teaches in the Law Department at University of West Virginia, in Morgantown. He can be reached at: www.michael-blumenthal.com. (Also available as an ebook.)

Click here to listen to Michael Blumenthal on NPR: http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=11951&terms=Michael+Blumenthal

Poetry by Michael Blumenthal:

The poetry collections we are offering here are reprints from two highly acclaimed Penguin editions from the 1980s. We are extremely proud to include them in our catalog.

Michael Blumenthal is also the translator of the Pleasure Boat Studio book, Unknown Places, by the esteemed Hungarian poet, Péter Kántor.

Here’s a reader review of Michael’s newest book, No Hurry (not published by us, alas):  Michael Blumenthal is vastly underrated as a poet.  He has been quietly crafting beautiful poems for decades and, I for one, am eternally grateful.  I've bought almost all of his prior books (Amazon can fact check this) - and whenever I introduce a friend to his work, the response is universally positive and enchanted.  I will always remember reading his poem "Wishful Thinking" - thanks to it being published in Helen Vendler's anthology - as a college freshman many years ago.  I typed up this poem and kept it with my journal for years - and eventually lost my little scrap of paper.  I hope someone found it on the subway or the floor of a bar somewhere and it made his or her day.  I don't read poetry criticism and I have no idea what experts think about his work.  All I know is my response to his work is visceral and authentic - and his writing has a vitality and passion to it that keeps me coming back to read more.  

Michael Blumenthal

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information about each book.

Thoughts onMichaelBlumenthal’s “When  history enters thehouse: Essays from Central  Europe” (also available as an ebook):


This essay began as a letter to the aforementioned author to express my personal thoughts and some of my favorite points of his book, as it has been a profound source of inspiration for me since finding it some weeks ago. It is a rather personal matter though, and since it involves so much of me, and my own thoughts, I’d like to try to write it more formally to share with others. It was by some sort of chance (maybe, and if otherwise, we can go down that road at a later time) that I came across Blumenthal’s book in a haznalt angol konyvbolt (used English book store) in Budapest. The book, written by an American professor who fell in love with Budapest upon his arrival and spent the next 4 years living there (here) writing essays and poetry, came as a much needed push to my own internal monologue and personal search. In music as in literature, flashiness without depth of content cannot persevere, and not only does Michael Blumenthal arouse our intellect and our own ideas of ourselves with his subject matter, the manner in which it is delivered is a true pleasure to behold and a celebration of language.

    One thing for me personally which I love is the stretching of conventional rules, whether it be music or in this case, writing. It is a general guideline in most disciplines that humans undertake, that you must first learn the rules in order to then break them. Jumping straight to the breaking of rules is generally not viewed as legitimate. And I understand that. It is because of this perhaps, that when I write and want to sound like O’Henry or Blumenthal, it just sounds bad and pretentious, as when I sit at a drum kit and want to sound like Bill Bruford. But I have no interest in listening to or creating normal music, nor do I particulary like reading or writing normal literature. There’s nothing wrong with what I may be referring to as normal, just that in the world of personal preferences, these are mine. Therefore when I hear Bruford caressing the drums like he does at the beginning and really all the way through Heart of the Sunrise and Close to the Edge, or the way Blumenthal weaves his way through the complexities and intricacies of the human spirit in The (Un)Wisdom of (In)Security, God Bless you Mrs. Kovács and The allure of Exile, I feel not only personally exalted but also with a higher appreciation for the role of these art forms play in how we live and grow.

    One thing I always love doing, perhaps unsuccessfully most of the time, I admit, is create wonderfully long, comma separated sentences, in just the right order – with some interjections by the author - that express not only a general idea but a smaller subtext, either in the form of a quote or a personal opinion on the matter at hand, not at all unlike this very one (though they almost never make their way past my editors!). But Blumenthal (who I will refer to from now on as MB) takes this to new levels, with great results. When asked by friends, What do you love so much about Budapest, isn’t it, well, a bit primitive, MB responds, “Yes friends, it is a bit primitive, a bit sad, a bit tragic, a bit unfinished, a bit tainted, a bit melancholic –yes, yes, the way the beautiful always is and always has been tainted, primitive, slightly sad, unfinished, tragic, eternally hopeful. What is beautiful here – what has stolen my heart the way not even a beautiful woman has ever stolen my heart (now, finally, I realize why so often, in literature, the allure of a city is equated with the allure of a woman) – is precisely this: its grimy lifefulness; its beautiful, pock-marked facades; its tattered dresses; its slightly musty, lived-in scent of usage and pleasure; its dark underbelly; its lardy women of jó hús (lovely meat) and its slightly unshaven, nicotine-stained men; its deeply sad, beautiful melodies of wistfulness and longing; its resonances of Bartók and Kodály, of Liszt and Ferenczi, of the sad, youthful suicide of József Attila and the graceful, autumnal one of Arthur Koestler.”

    MB’s voice is also a voice of honesty in a time when it is imperative to practice intellectual honesty within the machinations of today’s world. It is therefore only natural for me that a man of such verbal and observational depth would then turn his eye to the political, but with that all-so-needed humanity that is missing in much of today’s politics. After the Socialist-leaning elections of 1994, MB noted that “something in Hungary’s collective psyche, as well as economic indicators, seems to suggest... no matter how many different kinds of sneakers a society may produce, if it doesn’t also produce secure and stable human lives, no amount of ideological chest- thumping or propagandistic self-congratulation will earn for it the loyalty of its citizens... or their peace of mind.” He continues “Free Democrat, Young Democrat, Old Socialist, New Socialist: call themselves what they will, what those rising numbers in the world’s ‘richest’ countries... may be trying to tell us is that it will be a politics of compassion, rather than of ideology, that will – or, rather, must – rule the future.” Earlier in the same text, MB writes that “one of the great, unchallenged pieties of our time is the idea that most people need, crave, or long for, those great icons of contemporary life known as ‘challenges’ and ‘opportunities’ – external (usually career/money oriented) Holy Grails which people, like untethered Jasons, will make a Beeline for if only some malevolent system releases them into the sweet jungle of their private passions and greeds. This callous assumption (made, I’ve found, almost always by the rich, well-born and terribly lucky) that the vicissitudes of daily life – of

working, suffering, loving and raising children – don’t offer enough in the way of challenge to keep most people occupied, is one of America’s and the West’s greatest legacies to contemporary life...”             In Michael Blumenthal’s writing, one can find that unusual mix of caution and breadth in viewing the past; optimism and modesty when invoking the future; he can be unideologically ideological; apolitically political; forcefully humane; and always inquisitive and honest, which makes everything mentioned prior even more valid. When visiting a Polish Nazi camp, located very near the center of Lublin, MB noted “even before we set foot onto its fields of torture... Majdanek confronts us with a primary, only slightly less unspeakable, reality: They knew, and, being here, we now know that they knew, and thus we are forced, not merely to accuse, but to ask ourselves: ’What if we knew? What is it, at this very moment, that we know and remain passive in the face of, preferring not to see, to know, to act?’

    A frightening question, and one we must all ask ourselves with that same level of intellectual honesty, lest our own morality and conscience turn into nothing but “ideological chest-thumping and propagandistic self-congratulation”. I will end this essay (much like the rest of it), alas, not with my words, but with those of a more eloquent man, speaking of an even more eloquent man yet, saying that “mine is the enthusiasm of the freshly converted, the passion of the younger writer (artist) who has found in the voice of an older, wiser, more profoundly talented and humane man than himself, a model for what redeems us both as artists and as members of humankind.

A feast awaits all those who have not yet sat at his bountiful table.”  -  Japhlet Bire Attias 12 Szeptember, 2009 Budapest, Magyarország

In collaboration with the wonderful Hungarian poet, Péter Kántor , Michael has translated this stunning collection of poems. In addition, he has included a translator’s note which provides not only insight in the poet himself but also a further understanding of the state of Hungarian poetry in general.