Lenny Emmanuel is an American poet, professional in both science and literature. He was diagnostic bacteriologist and/or chemist in four hospitals until he accepted dual appointments (1970) in pathology (Laboratory Medicine) at the Indiana University Medical Center and the Department of English at Indiana University (Indianapolis). He also served three years as consultant to the CAP (College of American Pathologists). After 27 years at Indiana, he retired, then became Poetry Editor for The New Laurel Review in New Orleans (1997-2007), taught poetry and composition at USM (University of Southern Mississippi) for 12 years, retiring again in 2014. He has published widely in such magazines as FREELUNCH, Descant, Laboratory Medicine, CAP TODAY, ExquisiteCorpse, AntiochReview, SouthernPoetryAnthology, CaliforniaQuarterly, PoetrySalzburg Review (Austria), Agenda (BritishIssueofAmericanPoets), WaltWhitmanReview, JewishCurrents, and ContemporaryPoetry.
While at the University of Miami (FL), though a chemistry major, Emmanuel read “The Falcon of Sir Federigo” story (The Decameron) by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) and immediately became an English Literature major too, graduating with a B.S. in chemistry and B.A. in English. While at Miami, he found Housman, Browning, and Arnold most interesting. At Tulane, Emmanuel was influenced by Tennyson, Dylan Thomas, E.A. Robinson, Stevens, and Robinson Jeffers, but wrote his M.A. thesis on the paradoxes of John Donne. He later earned his M.B.A. from the University of Indianapolis, while serving 150% in the department of Laboratory Medicine (I.U.) and English (I.U.).
He matriculated at Iowa (A.B.D.) and studied with Donald Justice, George Starbuck, and Rhodes Dunlap, during the same time period that Mark Strand and Charles Wright were students of Justice. He later became “literary friends” with Justice, Strand, William Stafford, Jared Carter, Roland John (England), and Billy Collins. Early in his literary career, Emmanuel was an indulgent romantic and confessional. Over the years he has evolved into a romantic classicist, respecting the aesthetic distance of Auden, Eliot, Yeats, and Pound. While visiting The Louvre in Paris (2002), he saw what the “Old Masters” knew. Their personal lives were rarely if ever there, then only indirectly (Slantingly, E.D).
Emmanuel was born in the middle of a vicious storm in the afternoon of October 16, 1932 on a farm near Brooklet, GA. He was a sickly child, survived a difficult tonsillectomy, and his father and mother decided to relocate to Florida, a warmer climate. However, after a year in Winter Haven, then Miami, his father decided to move back to Georgia, to Savannah where he and the boy’s mother during WW II obtained jobs in the shipyards and Union Bag Factory. Their standard of living improved, and so did the youth’s health. One afternoon Emmanuel wandered into the YMCA, became a boxer and gymnast, then later a running back in football with the PALS Park League Championship Team.
In high school he was an honor student, All-City and Co-Captain his Junior and Senior years, All-Region G.I.A.A. his Senior year. After serving in the U.S. Marines, he entered the University of Miami (1954) as an athlete, but left as a serious student, with B.S. in chemistry and B.A. in English. After Tulane and Iowa, he researched his ancestry and found his great, great grandfather John Seibels of Elberfeldt, Germany had married Sarah Temple of Boston and the Temples of England, his great grandfather Dr. Thomas Tillinghast Seibels was an attending physician in Savannah when Sherman and his Army arrived. Emmanuel’s grandfather William Temple Seibels was a businessman and attorney in Chicago.
Lenny Emmanuel on Alto Sax
Comments about Lenny Emmanuel and his works
Thanks for the poem “Flea On A Towel.” I never felt so connected to a flea since I read Donne’s poem to another flea, a 17th century flea indeed. “Administratium” is funny. Once you get them laughing there’s no turning back. I especially liked the “Grim Reaper.” Glad to see [“Lizard On A Screen”] you are spending your time thinking about animals. I found your comments on both my poems [“Statues in the Park” and “Le Chien”] to be astute. From the “casual encounter” to the “final twist” I recommend an anthology Seriously Funny (eds. David Kirby and Barbara Hamby). Thanks for the commentaries and your poem “Afterwards.” I especially liked “Final Black Out.” You are prolific!
(Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of America, 2001-2003, from e-mails dated
2/28/2013, 9/7/2013, 6/6/2014, letter dated 1/22/2014, and postcard, 8/28/17)
I have been reading your two books [The Icecream Lady and Blue Rain] with a great deal of pleasure. The prose, the poems, the photographs – some of staggeringly grand breasts – are engrossing. The “Blue Rain” poem is excellent, and the “Duck Girl” poem is a lovely poem. I really like that poem “Empty Chairs.” Poor Scooter, poor everybody. I think, too, that the interviews with Roland John and Dave Brinks are especially good. [When I once mentioned to Strand that it would be nice if four or five of our poems would last], he responded, “If we’re lucky.” [When I mentioned to him once that he went after fame, while I went after money, but he had gotten both], he replied, “I’d rather have the money.”
(Mark Strand, Poet Laureate of America, 1990, from e-mails, 5/6/2011 – 11/24/2013)
Seldom have I experienced so satisfying an immersion in the complexities of composing, as in “Art As Discovery” and “The Third Stanza,” the adventures of an author finding through successive revisions the gradually more satisfying versions of a piece of writing. The essay “Whitman’s Fusion Of Science And Poetry” has enabled me to better understand Whitman, and certainly Lenny Emmanuel is the contemporary poet to fuse science and poetry. You certainly find some exotic places to publish. I must now go tend to my kiwis.” For years I thought he was mentioning the fruit and/or the little animal. I finally realized he was referring to tending to his poems.
(William Stafford, Letters)*
*It is perhaps important to note that William Stafford was appointed to The Library Congress before the title was changed to Poet Laureate. Also Donald Justice was appointed as Poet Laureate, but was unable to accept the assignment because of his failing health.
Poems, photographs, and essays – it’s [The Icecream Lady] a real triple-decker of a collection, and we should be grateful to Lenny Emmanuel for the treat! … Congratulations on HEARTHS, another quill in the cap of a guy whose hat is already overcrowded with feathers! Carter said to Lenny, “We are Selected Poems poets, not Collected Poems poets” during their conversation at Lee Meitzen Grue's residence.
(Jared Carter, Walt Whitman Award Recipient, from comments made in behalf
of The Icecream Lady, 1997 and from an E-mail dated 4/23/2013), also from their conversation at Lee Meitzen Grue’s residence in New Orleans during Carter's visit (Summer, 2017)
This is a book beautiful both in its physical format and in its spiritual implications. The bulk of the collection consists of poems, but the whole book is poetry. To see it merely as a mix of many styles would be a gross error, as it is a synthesis, an alchemical compound. The Icecream Lady is about as American as you can get, but it is a book for the whole world.
(Peter Russell, MARGINALIA, #21, Italy)
Lenny Emmanuel’s work, especially The Icecream Lady, is accessible, however never obvious. The poems are modern in the best sense, and like all real poetry there is an underlying intelligence at work. Beneath the polished veneer of many poems are skillful allusions to the tradition, sometimes it is the Arthurian legends and the ‘Matter of Britain’, at other times something deeply American in the celebration and scolding of his country and culture. This is a marvelous collection – urbane, humorous – but above all serious and humane.
(Roland John, HIPPOPOTAMUS PRESS, England)
Blue Rain is a cornucopia of moving poems, some political, some satiric, some touching, and some humorous. The interviews are of very different poets – Dave Brinks of New Orleans, the English poet and critic Roland John, and Mark Strand. Though I don’t much care for long poems, the title poem “Blue Rain” is a fine poem. I was pleased to see the satiric and ironic “Administratium” in the collection, with my favorite “My Cage” (“In A Green Shade”); and “In Silent Rain” is very moving with memorable lines like “There’s no haven for partings.” It’s a beautiful book, and the photography is shocking.
(Ron Offen, FREE LUNCH)
Most people are inherently afraid of poetry because they don’t understand it. Read The Icecream Lady (1997), Blue Rain (2011), and Goodbye, America! (2012). You will understand poetry. The Icecream Lady should be required reading for all Americans. I have read Lenny Emmanuel’s work again and again, and each time I find something new. “Four,” his modernization of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a masterpiece. Read him. He’s accessible, as well as delightfully humorous.
(Harry McGregor, LOCH LOMOND, Scotland)
The Icecream Lady, a collection of Lenny Emmanuel’s poems, essays, and photographs, is a collage in a cinematic, imagistic poetic style with swift changes in subject, place, and tone, the writer’s reflections on meanings and values discovered in his extensively varied life. We published his poems in Descant a number of times and are pleased to have done so. He is not only an interesting poet, but also a genuine human being.
(Betsy Colquitt, DESCANT)
Lenny Emmanuel’s “Flea On A Towel” has a fun slant view of life as a flea. “No doubt he would welcome // another flea, even for a moment // to communicate his predicament, // privately, a sort of flea to flea.” Love those internal rhymes. And this poem keeps getting deeper and throwing off extra meanings, until it ends as quite a powerful poem indeed.
Lenny Emmanuel has stepped out of the box, colored beyond the lines and his peers – with the academians, literaries, and administrators of the establishment running scared to their comfort zones. He is now in the company of persecuted creative innovators. Blue Rain is his best work thus far. If you don’t read anything else, read his “Apologia” toward the end of the book. I extend my congratulations to him.
Those who read or listen to Emmanuel’s poetry will be treated to a myriad of subject material, ranging from the mis-use of science to the need for America to return to its spiritual center, to the timeless theme of love. According to one of his colleagues at the University of Southern Mississippi (Gulf Coast Campus), Professor Diane Stevenson, ‘He’s one of those interesting persons who is both literary and scientific. Poetry is not just something he reads in books. It’s something that he lives.’”
(Dave Carey, The Sun-Herald, July 11, 2003)
The Icecream Lady is a breathtaking mosaic of life’s telling snapshots depicting the multidimensionality of underlying human purposes, creative principles, spiritual lessons, and the ageless child within us. Truly, the mother of love has smiled down onto Lenny Emmanuel.
(J. J.). “Outside The Moon” is certainly well-wrought. “Why Poetry” is right on. I’m glad one of us has finally put this down on paper. (B.G.)
(Jiri Jirasek and Brian Gilliand, COSMIC TREND, Canada)
Lenny Emmanuel’s The Icecream Lady is a superb collection. The poems are masterful, his photographic accompaniments appropriate and enriching, his essays revealing and insightful, and the book is physically beautiful to top it off. The Icecream Lady chronicles a poetry publishing career that dates back at least to 1959. Whether this poet wants also to be a critic, he is. Perhaps he has a cosmic obligation to use his gifts to help others see the internal workings of poems, to improve their understanding of the art and craft of poem-making. I wonder … am I the only one who senses the presence of greatness here?
(Derryl Hermanutz, COSMIC TREND, Canada)
Lenny Emmanuel is that unique individual: a man and author with interests and abilities in the fields of both science and liberal arts. In addition to holding a B.S. in chemistry and a B.A. in English from the University of Miami, he has a Master’s in English from Tulane, an M.B.A. from the University of Indianapolis, and has completed all course work for the doctorate at the University of Iowa. Indiana’s ‘Renaissance Man’ has published widely in the U.S., England, Canada, India, Australia, and Austria.
Lenny Emmanuel credits mostly his mother for his creative abilities. When she was 86 (she retired from Earth at the age of 93), she gave Lenny seven quilts she had done over the years, including one she finished after it had been started by her great-great grandmother. The quilt was passed down to her great grandmother, to her grandmother, to her mother, and eventually to her. The red quilt was made from scrap cloth. Five generations worked on it.
(Marcus Holland, Savannah Morning News, November 28, 1998)
I read Lenny Emmanuel’s “Blue Rain” this weekend. It was moving. I’ve read poems about Hurricane Katrina by other poets who had not lived the experience of those on the Gulf Coast. “Bllue Rain” speaks to the heart of those who lived through that hurricane and dealt with the destruction. “Blue Rain” hums with authenticity. I’ve read the poem “My Mayhaw Tree” multiple times, and I am always drawn into it. I think it’s a love poem, but artfully disguised. There are several phrases that I like: “go deep, wet-landish-ly” (an interesting word), “sweet results,” “desperate urbanites dead-set on escape,” “struggle is worth the sweet delicacies,” “warm rosy jells,” “soft songe of fruition,” “well-sealed with my name.” I like the search for the tree being compared to an affair. The last stanza is very touching. Though the poet sometimes has love returned abundantly and sometimes only has a small return, he will continue to invest in love and freely give it away.
(Elaine White, Professor and Director of the Live Oak Writing Project, USM)
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