Terminalia, by Daniel Menaker

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A collection of poems by author Daniel Menaker, published by The Portal Press.

In January, Daniel Menaker—former New Yorker fiction editor, Random House editor-in-chief, and author of The Treatment, among many other books—received a terminal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and the twenty-four poems collected in TERMINALIA were written over the course of Menaker’s diagnosis and treatment. The collection chronicles his “long contention with the truth”: that “The illness you’re fighting / And to which you will lose was Written, like this. / But uneditable, inevitable.”

Lauded by Janet Malcolm as “a true comic artist,” Menaker reflects on the long arc of an extraordinary life in verse that’s at once mournful and remarkably, even insistently funny. Writing from the “imaging slab,” “the argot of the docs and lab reports,” and the haze of painkillers, his poems playfully register the humorous and rhetorical possibilities latent in medical and anatomical terminology. Against the “sickness circus” of pandemic-era New York City, Menaker’s account of his private experience of illness stays attuned to both “joy and its twin brother, mourning.” 


“The precision and the clarity of these poems are testimony to our belief that the spirit and the word are indomitable and they outlast the flesh.”
—Abraham Verghese

 “An aching, compelling, irresistible read.”
—Jennifer Egan 

“Instead of offering the reflective calm of a memoir or the drama of a cancer survivor’s story, Menaker uses vigorous language, unsettled forms, and a restless voice to lead us urgently into the actual experience of the disease and its treatment. The reader will come away linguistically stimulated and emotionally gripped.”
—Billy Collins

“The poems are achingly beautiful; they are like surgical probes sent into the brain and the heart.”
—Siddhartha Mukherjee

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