Obituary: Mack Rosenthal

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The Independent Online
Some 40 years ago, when I was feeling my way into translation, Mack Rosenthal was poetry editor of the leftish New York weekly the Nation, writes Norman Thomas di Giovanni [further to the obituary by Walter Baumann, 13 August].

In awe, I regularly sent him versions of the Italian poems that were my training ground. At once he treated me with unfailing kindness and promptness, as if I were a valued contributor. This made me even more awestruck. I now realise that this unique man would have treated all of his contributors that same way.

Rosenthal gave each submitted poem his total attention. He did not merely accept or reject. He wrote to you and was always helpful and encouraging. I was so green that the first time I sent him a poem - it was by Cesare Pavese - I neglected to include my address with it. When later I queried what I imagined had been his neglect, he promptly wrote back saying how much he wanted the poem and had been keeping it for publication, hoping I would contact him again. Later I sent him another Pavese. It came back promptly, telling me the diction was all wrong. It also listed instances. I sat down, rewrote the piece, and resubmitted it. By return mail Mack accepted it.

I did not know then that M.L. Rosenthal was an inspired and respected university teacher. I would never have believed he was an academic. I only knew him as an inspired editor, one who took extraordinary pains and could be helpful and generous to a complete novice. He was a man in love with poetry.