For those of you who aren’t on the mailing list for the Robert Lax Newsletter, here’s an interview I mentioned in the August issue, with Steve Georgiou, who has written several books about Robert Lax and is the editor of Lax’s In the Beginning Was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax. It was conducted by Richard Whittaker, West Coast editor of Parabola magazine.
Rumors and half-reports have been coming in for months, but it seems to be a sure thing now: This November, New Directions will be publishing a new edition of Robert Lax’s 33 Poems.
At least one celebration is in the works. Check back in coming weeks for more information.
In the Beginning Was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax, a book of Lax quotes edited by S. T. Georgiou, has won first place in Poetry in the 2017 Catholic Press Association Book Awards.
[*Note: After making this post this morning, I received a message from Robert J. Wicks offering readers of this blog 30% off on his new book. To receive the discount, go to the Oxford University Press page for Night Call and use the promo code ASPROMP8.]
The popular writer and psychologist Robert J. Wicks, author of 50 books, has included a section on Robert Lax as a mentor in his new book Night Call: Embracing Compassion and Hope in a Troubled World. The book just arrived in my mailbox yesterday so I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but it looks like an important book for these unsettled days.
Wicks features Lax in a chapter called “Profile of a Future Mentor.” He quotes several passages from my book Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax, first to illustrate that Lax felt mentored himself by the Indian guru he met in college, Brahmachari, and then to show how Lax, in turn, mentored others. In addition to discussing my relationship with Lax, Wicks talks about Lax’s mentoring of Steve Georgiou, quoting from the book Georgiou wrote about their relationship, The Way of the Dreamcatcher.
Wicks concludes his section on Lax as a mentor with these words:
“Both Georgiou and McGregor were bringing their life experiences to Lax, in this case, in the hopes of making greater sense of their stories than they could on their own. The were seeking a form of wisdom that would allow them, in turn, to continue to share with others in need–possibly on a deeper level–what they had and would learn.”
Later in the book, Wicks returns to Lax briefly, mostly to quote (again from Pure Act) a brief Lax poem that suggests the goal of self-evaluation and renewal:
In April 2016 I wrote about the luminous paintings based on Lax’s poetry done by a talented young painter named Abbey Ryan. Lately, I’ve been corresponding with Abbey’s father Greg Ryan, who knew Robert Lax for many years. Greg sent me this image of the kind of thing Lax often included with his letters:
Greg and his wife Elizabeth Ryan are the author and illustrator of a lovely new children’s book about Thomas Merton called The ABCs of Thomas Merton: A Monk at the Heart of the World. It is a well-pitched and pleasingly illustrated introduction to Merton and his world for children age 6-10. You can find it on Amazon. Here’s the cover:
By the way, the featured image for this entry is a note Lax sent to Greg and Elizabeth when they were expecting Abbey, the “bright newcomer from the sky.”
If you live in or near Boston, I hope you’ll come out to 279 Harvard St. in Brookline this coming Thursday, May 18, for a 7 p.m. reading at Brookline Booksmith bookstore. The new paperback version of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax will be for sale at the reading.
Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax has been named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award in Biography/Memoir. You’ll find a full list of finalists and information about the awards ceremony here.
If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in attending, the awards ceremony will take place 7-9 p.m. in the Microsoft Auditorium at the Seattle Public Library’s central branch (1000 Fourth Avenue).
Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax has been awarded an Honorable Mention in Biography by the Catholic Press Association (CPA), making it the only biography to receive awards from both the CPA and the Association of Catholic Publishers in 2016.
Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax has won a 2016 Excellence in Publishing Award from the Association of Catholic Publishers. It received second prize in the Biography category. First prize went to Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired By Faith by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, who played a crucial role in bringing Pure Act to Fordham University Press.
You can read the ACP Awards press release here.
Lifelong friend of Trappist Monk Thomas Merton and abstract painter Ad Reinhardt, Robert Lax wrote spare poems that, in their beguiling simplicity, provoke anxieties about how and why we read. A typical Lax poem forms a narrow vertical column, each line of which is only one or two words long, that descends down the center of the page in repetitions and permutations: “one stone/ one stone/ one stone,” opens poems (1962 – 1997), edited and with a superb introduction by poet John Beer, “i lift/ one stone/ one stone// i lift/ one stone/ and i am/ thinking” (3). Such phrases, repeated and varied, make the reader aware, if not self-conscious, about the reading act. However, unlike other poets whose work causes readers to read themselves reading it, such as Gertrude Stein or e.e. cummings, Lax’s poems present no obvious difficulties or impediments to sense. Instead, stanzas like the above — difficult in their easiness, complex in their simplicity — lull the reader into committing the heresy of paraphrase: Lax lifts one stone and he is thinking. It’s easy, all too easy, to be lax when reading Lax.
The difficulty of reading Lax in part stems from a temporal dissonance. His poems contain so few words, repeated so many times, you almost can’t help but read them fast, too fast, much too fast, even as their form and content gesture toward a meditative slowness that remains just out of reach. “hurry/ up/ hurry/ up/ hurry/ up,” beseeches one stanza, only for the next to admonish, “slow/ down/ slow/ down/ slow/ down” (48). The two stanzas’ forms are almost identical to one another but their contents advocate for opposite reading cadences,each facilitated by the repetitive form. Quick: the reader can skip over the repeated words without much loss because she’s already read them anyway. Slow: the repetitions force the reader to take notice of them and slow down. The back-and-forth commands to “hurry/ up/ slow/ down// hurry/ up/ slow/ down” represent the simultaneous conflicting imperatives of Lax’s poetry (48).
–to read more, click here.