The First German Translation of Lax’s 33 Poems Is Now Available!

Sprachichter Verlag has just released the first German translation of one of the best collections of Robert lax poems, 33 Poems (33 Gedichte). This first edition is limited to 100 hardcover copies. Sprachlichter will publish a second edition in 2022.

To read more about the book (in German) or purchase a copy, click here.

Note from MNM: I’m pleased to be listed as a contributing editor for the book. My German isn’t terribly good but I speak fluent Lax and was able to help improve the translations.

The Latest Lax Newsletter Has Just Gone Out!

The latest issue of the Robert Lax Newsletter went out to subscribers on Friday. This is a free newsletter that gives you thoughts, news and links related to Lax before they appear on the website–as well as exclusive material. The most recent issue explores the different views Lax fans have of him, his evolving reputation as an important poet, and the new Philip Glass opera based on his circus poems.

To sign up, click here and enter your email address in the white box. Then just click “subscribe”!

It’s Wonderful!: Don’t Miss the Chance to Live Stream the New Philip Glass Circus Opera

I just watched the live stream of the premiere of new Philip Glass circus opera based on Robert Lax’s poems. Wow! It is a wonderful show! If you haven’t bought tickets for one of the performances, you should do so now. It runs through June 13, with all of the shows live streamed for just $12. You’ll never be able to see this show again for that price. If you love Lax, Glass, the circus, opera, theater, spectacle, life, order your ticket now:

Trailer: A Glimpse of the Wonderful New Philip Glass-Robert Lax Opera

A trailer for Philip Glass’s new opera, “Circus Days and Nights,” based on Robert Lax’s poems, just came out. It gives a exciting first glimpse at the show. Just click below.

Tickets for a live streaming of the opera are still available. It runs May 29-Jun 13. For show information and ticket ordering, click here.

Buy Your Ticket to a Live Streaming of the new Philip Glass Opera “Circus Days and Nights” Now!

The new Philip Glass opera “Circus Days and Nights,” based on Robert Lax’s poetry, will be live-streamed starting with its premiere on May 29. The premiere is sold out, but you can still get tickets to other shows.

To order tickets (which cost approximately $12 US) and read more about the show, click here.

Cristiani Videos to Whet Your Appetite for the Upcoming Philip Glass-Robert Lax Circus Opera

Poking around on YouTube today, I found these two old blurry videos of the Cristiani circus family, the second of which I’ve posted before.

The Cristianis, of course, are the stars of Robert Lax’s poetry cycles The Circus of the Sun and Mogador’s Book, the basis for the Philip Glass opera “Circus Days and Nights,” which will premiere in a live-streamed show from the Malmö Opera building on May 29.

I’ll be posting more about the opera in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, here’s a link to more information about it, including how to get tickets for one of the live-streamed shows. Stay tuned.

An Essay on Goodness Inspired by Robert Lax

Here’s the link to a lyrical essay on Goodness I wrote for Notre Dame Magazine, with more than a little of Robert Lax’s spirit in it.

Notre Dame editor Kerry Temple asked me to write the piece shortly after last November’s election because he was tired of hearing only about badness. Then he built an entire essay around the theme of Goodness–something this past year has left us all wanting more of.

You’ll find links to the many other thoughtful and inspiring pieces in the issue in a sidebar next to my essay.

March 28 Concert to Feature Compositions Based on Lax’s Poem “the hill”

On Sunday, March 28, 2021 (at 18:00, Budapest time) Frog Peak Music (a composers’ collective, aka FUGA) will present:

SONGS FROM THE HILL AND ELSEWHERE, featuring Nikolaus Gerszewski’s compositions “songs from the hill” (2012) and “new songs from the hill” (2019) will be presented along with composer Chris Newman’s “modest songs” (2012)

Gerszewski’s compositions are based on Robert Lax’s poem “the hill.”

The concert at the Budapest Architecture Center will feature Orsolya Anna Juhász (soprano voice) and Bálint Baráth (piano). It will be broadcast live on the group’s YouTube channel, where you can watch it later too:

Before the concert, György Bartók and Nikolaus Gerszewski will talk about the works.

For more specifics about the concert and FUGA, go to:

  • (The image above, of Nikolaus Gerszewski, is from the FUGA website)

Here’s what Gerszewski says about his compositions:

I chose the lyrics from the volume “the hill” by the minimalist poet Robert Lax, who has lived half of his life as a hermit on the greek island Patmos. His poetic style transcends literary genres, sometimes oscillates between narrative prose and abstract lyricism, even touches the border of concrete poetry; the single word can be emphasized in its phonetic objectivity but is at the same time embedded in a descriptive context.

The music I wrote is sometimes chromatic, sometimes appearently modal, yet not following any musical system in its tonal shaping. The compositional technique is actually rather conceptual, in the sense of using a selfmade precompositional setup to reduce the possibilities of choices. Yet the music itself is very intuitional, which is not a contradiction. We have this relation of a conceptual approach with an intuitional, so to speak lyrical result in the works of many great artists of the conceptual period, like Ad Reinhard, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin or Eva Hesse.

As regards content, these songs are all about solitude; a man living in a  world of his own creation, waiting for a companion who may never come.

Composer Chris Newman (image from the FUGA website)

And here’s Newman talking about her composition:

I think that art is definitely trying to get away from personal feelings that we all feel – this way or that way. Art has the ability to embody, make concrete & transcend, help us ‘get through’ those feelings. Not therapeutic, but transcendent.

When writing music I don’t use pitches or rhythms, I use musical material as a job-lot, not its components & really like a job-lot I take what it gives me. I apply ‘things’ to the job-lot of music. The vista of music, the panorama of music. I suppose what interests me is the phenomenon of music & our relationship to it, how it combines itself with us, or at least making models for this. The phenomenon of music & how it combines itself with us. I am wondering if the medium is also ‘merely’ a model for the outside world.”

Nikolaus Gerszewski was born in 1964 in Hamburg and lives now in Hamburg and Budapest. He is a trained visual artist and a self-trained composer of ‘experimental music.’

Since his early 20s, he has been engaged in non-representational art, as both a painter and a theorist. In 2005, he came in touch with Cornelius Cardew’s graphic score “Treatise,” and ever since he has developed his own musical notation, in form of graphic scores, text scores, alternative systems of signs, semi-conventional, and even fully conventional sheet music. In 2008, he introduced his own generic term ‘ordinary music’, expressing his view, that the making of sounds should be considered a natural means of expression, accessible to everyone, rather than being banished into the realms of art and entertainment; this having said he still considers himself a natural born artist.

Since 2013, Nikolaus has been teaching ‘experimental sound production’ at the university of fine arts, Budapest (MKE), and at the university of science, Pecs (PTI).

Chris Newman was born in London 1958. While a music student at King’s College London he found himself involved in translating Russian poetry into English (with Russian poet Eugene Dubrov) & this act of translation in the broadest sense – either from one artistic medium to another (this mediums in his case embrace music, poetry, performance, painting, video & dual presentations thereof), or from the act of perception into the artistic medium – has formed the basis of his endeavors. He moved to Cologne in 1980 & has more or less lived in Germany ever since.

Robert Lax: The Artist as Collaborator

I spent several hours recently looking through my collection of Robert Lax books, booklets, pamphlets, recordings, letters, and drawings and thought I’d post images of a few of them. The ones I value most, of course, are those Lax gave me himself, inscribing them to me. But others have special meaning as well. Among them are:

The multi-language version of The Circus of the Sun I was amazed to find in a Seattle bookstore just months after I first met Lax (the first of his books I owned); the pristine copy of the original hardcover version or The Circus of the Sun its publisher, Emil Antonucci, sent me after I interviewed him; the copy of A Poem for Thomas Merton Lax’s cousin Soni gave me one of the last times I saw her (image below); and the four copies of the extremely fragile and rare Pax broadsheet Lax sent out to friends and a few paying customers in the 50s and 60s (which I was able to purchase online before prices for that kind of thing rose out of sight).

Signed pages from Lax’s “A Poem for Thomas Merton,” designed and illustrated by Emil Antonnuci.

What struck me most as I looked over all of these treasures was the sheer number and variety of people Lax collaborated with or simply allowed to use his poems in whatever way they chose. The two most consistent and therefore important publishers of his work were Emil Antonucci, who started Journeyman Press just to disseminate Lax’s poems, and Gladys Weigner und Bernhard Moosbrugger, who did something similar with Pendo-Verlag. But there were countless others: poets, painters, photographers, lithographers, musicians, radio personalities, magazine editors, and multimedia artists. All of them were touched by something in Lax’s writings but also by something in him: a spirit, a way of seeing, an ability to bring the world and ourselves into clearer focus. And all of them found Lax to be a willing and enjoyable partner.

While musicians are generally used to collaborating, most artists and writers create alone. And many of them—of us—are difficult to work with when a collaborative opportunity comes along. Even playwrights, who work in a collaborative medium, often have a tough time letting go of their work so directors and actors and stage designers can turn it into something alive on stage.

A few of the many stand-alone Lax poems printed and illustrated by Emil Antonucci

But although Lax lived alone and wrote his poetry alone, he was a natural and cheerful collaborator. His first collaborations were with his college friends—in creating issues of Jester at Columbia College and when they lived together during college summers at the Marcus cottage. Out of these times—and his later observations of jazz musicians jamming together and circus acrobats perfecting their timing with one another—came his view of the ideal life: not only living fully in the moment, under God, but also performing whatever art or practice you have worked to perfect—spontaneously, in a spirit of love, in community with others.

May we all learn from Lax to be better collaborators and enjoy the synergy that can be released only when we trust and say yes to one another.

Cast for Philip Glass/Robert Lax Opera “Circus Days and Nights” Announced!

Renowned Swedish soprano Elin Rombo will headline a talented and diverse cast of singers and circus performers in the May 29th premiere of Philip Glass’s “Circus Days and Nights,” based on poems by Robert Lax.

To read Rombo’s biography, listen to an audio clip of her singing, and watch her in two short movie clips, click here.

For a full list of the “Circus Days and Nights” cast, click here.