Today is Robert Lax’s 108th birthday. Here’s a quote from him to mark the occasion:
“the words were like precipate that rose from a stream which flowed with remarkable consistency within him. he took them as they came, often ungrammatical, often incorrect, and not infrequently of a character not to be used in gentle society. he wrote them as they came, feeling often that the errors, the incorrect and the gross expressions were the ones which told the most, conformed to the contours, the flow of the stream. for it was the stream, the nature of the stream, he had set himself now to reveal.”
I recently acquired a copy of the Columbia University yearbook, The Columbian, from 1938, the year Robert Lax graduated. It shows Lax being voted “best writer” by the senior class and serving as editor of the Columbia Review
He also appears in the university’s Hall of Fame for 1938.
Here’s his regular senior class listing.
I like this yearbook line about his poetry in the Review.
Note: The information and images in this post appeared originally in the Robert Lax Newsletter. To receive this free publication in your inbox four times a year, sign up on the left-hand side of this page.
Today is the 107th anniversary of Robert Lax’s birth. I’ve received notes already from people who are celebrating it in Belgium and Russia. As a small commemoration, here’s the first poem in the best collection of his work, 33 Poems. It seems a good summation of how Lax viewed life.
the head of the commit-
tee said he couldn't use
it shot off, he said, in
too many direc-
throw it onto the junk-
heap, he said,
out there where the wild-
For today, at least, let yourself be thrown out there where the wildflowers grow.
A Dutch website called Player FM is offering a free recording of Lax reading his book the hill. According to the site, the reading was recorded on Patmos in 1999 by Sigrid Hauff. The site is in Dutch, but you can play the recording simply by clicking on “Spelen” in the middle of this page.
Note: This post was originally part of the June issue of the Robert Lax Newsletter. To receive the latest Lax information, news, and writings, sign up for the newsletter here.
Amazon just dropped its price for the e-book version of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax to $2.99. It has done this a couple of other times in recent months, but this time there’s an added benefit: You can add the new audio version of the book for just $7.49. And with both of them, you can switch back and forth without losing your place in the book.
Amazon’s usual price for the e-book is $11.99 and it has been pricing the new audiobook at $17.15, so this is quite a deal! If past reductions are any indication, though, it won’t last long.
Note: This deal is offered only on Amazon’s US site. The book(s) can be given as a gift, but only to recipients in the US–for gift-giving information, click on the “Buy for Others” link on the right-hand side of the book’s page.
A site called Zazzle is now offering notecards decorated with Robert Lax sayings and designs inspired by them. Go to The Robert Lax Poem Hut Collection to see them all. This weekend they’re offering a President’s Day sale of 25% off.
I found the quote below in The Saint and the Scholar, Jon M. Sweeney’s short, fascinating new book about how the split between faith and reason got started back in the 12th century. The book is the story of the different approaches to faith and learning followed by Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard (of Heloise affair fame) and how their conflict has echoed down through the ages.
The quote, from Simone Weil, is a good description of how Robert Lax lived:
“There is no entry into the transcendent until the human faculties–intelligence, will, human love–have come up against a limit, and the human being waits at this threshold, which he can make no move to cross, without turning away and without knowing what he wants, in fixed, unwavering attention.”
Like this hummingbird, I’ve been taking a break from the buzz and the busyness of social media and city life this summer. I’ll be posting more Lax-related news and stories in October. I hope you’ll check back then.