Poems (1962-1997) gathers 35 years of Robert Lax’s work, rarely published and largely composed in solitude on the island of Patmos. Compiled and edited by the poet’s former assistant John Beer, this selection reflects–through meditative sequences in striking vertical columns–Lax’s rigorous attention to the world around him, and his relentless aspiration to new ways of writing.
His poems are, like the music of Glass and the sculpture of Judd, an authentic kind of prayer in a secular and postmodern age, and that, to me, is of immeasurable value.
Ryo Yamaguchi, Michigan Quarterly Review
A necessary read for poets and archaeologists, who delight in finding treasures that others have ignored.
The simplicity of Lax’s poems can be surprisingly overwhelming—their repetitive language and narrow, columnar forms belie not a hidden complexity, but a meditative, expansive power. Beer’s introduction places Lax historically, personally, and spiritually with Lax’s friends and contemporaries like Merton and Reinhardt.
Thomas Ross, Tin House
This is extraordinary poetry made from the very stuff of the world around us. It is the nearest I have come to alchemy: gold and light spun from earth, words working in one way at the very limits of experiment and form, yet also working at the centre of human perception and thought, appealing to both intellect and heart.
Rupert Loydell, Stride Magazine
Lax’s work is visual poetry, experienced as the eye interprets the arrangement of words on the page, but there is also great care in the word choices; Lax is equally sensitive to their referential value...Poems (1962-1997) is an elegant book that will, with any luck, make Lax’s work more readily available to new audiences.
Elizabeth O'Brien, New Pages
The book is a treasure and inspiration, a testimony of a life lived roundly, in full circle, and full of healthy contradictions.
Anthony Bannon, The Buffalo News
Lax has for too long been a cult figure; his originality and significance insufficiently recognized. If justice is poetic, Beer’s selection will do something to rectify this.
David Wojahn, Numéro Cinq
Lax’s poetry, at once fast and slow, shallow and deep, eventually teaches you, if you stick with it — at whatever pace and whatever depth — how to relax and enjoy the ride.
Louis Bury, Hyperallergic
Robert Lax (1915-2000) published dozens of volumes of poetry and prose journals with small presses in Europe and the United States, as well as A Catch of Anti-Letters, correspondence with his lifelong friend Thomas Merton. Educated at Columbia University, he worked as an editor for The New Yorker, Jubilee, and PAX. From 1962 to the end of his life, he made his home in the Greek islands, first Kalymnos and ultimately Patmos.
John Beer is the author of The Waste Land and Other Poems (Canarium, 2010), which won the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos for two years in the late 1990s, where he served as literary assistant to Robert Lax. He currently teaches creative writing at Portland State University; previously, he reviewed theater for Time Out Chicago.
Publication Date: November 2013
ISBN# 9781933517766 (7x9 400pp, paperback and limited edition hardcover)