A Podcast and a Long Lax Feature in the December issue of POETRY Magazine

A long section on the poetry of Robert Lax takes up a full quarter of the December issue of Poetry magazine (released today).  It includes previously unpublished poems written on Kalymnos in 1968, facsimiles of Lax’s handwritten notes and jottings, and a lengthy introduction by me.

Poetry has posted a downloadable podcast featuring poets who are in the December issue and a conversation with me about Lax, his poetry and his life in Greece.  You can listen to it here.  If you scroll down below it on the same page and click on Michael N. McGregor (or click here), you can read my introduction.  If you click on Robert Lax (or here), you can read the poems of his featured in the issue.  You’ll also see the lovely photograph of Lax shown here, taken by author Tom Stone, a friend of Lax who lived on Patmos.

Where Can I Find Robert Lax’s Poetry?

Although more than two dozen books of Robert Lax’s writing have been published, finding a Lax book in print can be difficult.  Only four fairly recent collections of his poetry are still available:

A Hermit’s Guide to Home Economics, edited by Paul Spaeth, New Directions, 2015, 64 pages

poems (1962-1997), edited by John Beer, Wave Books, 2014, 400 pages

Circus Days and Nights, edited by Paul Spaeth, Overlook Press, 2009, 188 pages

A Thing That Is, Overlook Press, 1998, 96 pages

The poetry in all of these books except Circus Days and Nights is from his later minimalist period.  The Wave book includes all of the poems from his seminal 1962 collection New Poems as well as later published and unpublished work.  Circus Days and Nights contains three circus cycles from his earlier, more lyrical period: “The Circus of the Sun,” “Mogador’s Book,” and “Voyage to Pescara.”  All four books are good collections.

The only other Lax writings still in print are:

Dear Jack: Heart Not Head, edited by Paul Spaeth, Water Row Press, 2014, 16 pages

When Prophecy Still Had a Voice: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Robert Lax, edited by Arthur Biddle, University Press of Kentucky, 2000, 496 pages

A Catch of Anti-letters, co-written with Thomas Merton, Sheed & Ward, 1994, 128 pages

(While these books include a few Lax poems, they are centered on his correspondence with Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton.)

You can find some earlier Lax collections available online, but they’re often quite expensive.  The best of them is 33 Poems, which draws from all periods of his writing life.  It was published by New Directions in 1988.  I’ve asked New Directions to re-release it but have received no response yet.  If you’d like to help with this effort, please write to the New Directions editors at: editorial@ndbooks.com.

A second good-but-out-of-print collection covering all periods is Love Had a Compass, published by Grove Press in 1996.

Both of these books are available in many libraries.

To read Lax’s prose, try to get your hands on one of the small, brown, out-of-print collections of his journal entries published by the Swiss publisher Pendo Verlag.

For an extensive list of the many Lax books that have been published and information on which libraries have them, go to World Cat.