Robert Lax

Concrete Poetry Conference in Honor of Robert Lax: Mar. 31-Apr. 1, 2017

St. Bonaventure University in Robert Lax’s hometown of Olean, NY, will be honoring him March 31-April 1, 2017 with a conference called  Never Abolish Chance: The Concrete Poetry Conference.

Poets and critics who were part of the Concrete Poetry movement in the later part of the 20th century embraced Lax as a kind of forefather and included his work in books and articles about the movement.  This helped to bring his work greater attention, including more serious critical study.

The keynote speakers for the conference will be John Beer, Renee Gladman, and Evie Shockley.

John Beer is the editor of poems (1962-1997), a selection of Robert Lax’s  poetry published by Wave Books in 2013.  His own works of poety include The Waste Land and Other Poems (Canarium Books, 2010), winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America; a chapbook, Lucinda (Spork Press, 2013); and the full-length verse novella of Lucinda (Canarium Books, 2016).

Renee Gladman‘s works of prose include Juice (Kelsey Street Press, 2000), The Activist (KRUPSKAYA, 2003), Newcomer Can’t Swim (Kelsey Street Press, 2007), and To After That (Toaf) (Atelos, 2008). Her recent title include Calamities (Wave Books, 2016), and the Ravicka novels Event Factory (2010), The Ravickians (2011), and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge (2013). In 2014-2015 she was a fellow at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, where she worked on Prose Architectures, an interdisciplinary project exploring the continuum between sentences and drawings. Gladman has taught at several U.S. universities, most extensively as a professor of creative writing at Brown University from 2006-2014.

Evie Shockley is the author the new black, winner of the 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry, a half-red sea, and a critical study, Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (Iowa University Press, 2011). Her honors include the 2012 Holmes National Poetry Prize, fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and residencies at Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. Shockley is an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, in New Brunswick, NJ.

Proposals

Please submit 300-word abstracts for papers or 500-word abstracts for panels/roundtables to Concrete@sbu.edu. Proposals will be accepted until January 10. Accepted participants will be notified by January 25.

Hyperallergic Website Reviews Lax’s POEMS (1962-1997)

Beguiling Simplicity: The Poetry of Robert Lax

A review of poems (1962-1997) by Robert Lax, edited by John Beer

by Louis Bury, posted on Hyperallergic on April 16, 2016

 

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.

poems (1962 – 1997) (2013) is published by Wave Books and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.

Free One-Hour Podcast of A Celebration of Robert Lax

Late Night Library interview--12-9-15

Late Night Library’s Paul Martone (left) interviews Robert Lax biographer Michael N. McGregor (center) and former Lax literary assistant and poet John Beer (right) for an LNL podcast.

On December 9, 2015, Oregon Literary Arts hosted A Celebration of Robert Lax to mark the poet’s 100th birthday.  At the event, Michael N. McGregor gave an introduction to Lax’s life and work and then read selections from his biography Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax.  Poet John Beer followed this with a marvelous reading of Lax’s later poems from the Beer-edited collection poems (1962-1997) by Robert Lax.  The evening concluded with Late Night Library founder Paul Martone interviewing McGregor and Lax on their friendship with Lax, his approach to life, and his writing.

The entire evening was recorded and is available for free as a Late Night Library podcast.  You can listen to it here.  It is one of the best audio introductions to Lax and his work.

Robert Lax Week in the Bay Area

It was Robert Lax week in the Bay Area in mid-February.  On Thursday, Feb. 11, Michael N. McGregor, John Beer and S. T. Georgiou (who all knew Lax and have written or edited books by or about him) spoke, read and reminisced about their friend at City Lights Books in San Francisco.  Five nights later, McGregor read from his biography Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax at Pegasus Books in Berkeley. (The images below are from the two events.)

It was standing-room-only at City Lights as the three men talked about Lax’s friendships with Jack Kerouac and Thomas Merton, his avant-garde poetry, and his role as a spiritual inspiration for many.  Among those in attendance were Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia and Mike Antonucci, nephew of Lax’s first publisher and close friend Emil Antonucci.  The Pegasus reading was well attended too, leaving the Bay Area with broader knowledge of this important poet and spiritual figure.

McGregor and Beer will appear at another reading at 6:30 p.m. this Tuesday, February 23, in room 333, Smith Memorial Union on the Portland State University campus in Portland, OR.

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February 11 & 16: Robert Lax Readings at City Lights in SF and Pegasus Books in Berkeley

The life and poetry of Robert Lax will be be featured at two events in California’s Bay Area in February.  On February 11, Michael N. McGregor, John Beer and S. T. Georgiou will talk about their friendship with Lax and read from works by and about him at Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s famed City Light Books.

The evening is a celebration of McGregor’s new biography Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax as well as two recent Lax collections: In the Beginning Was Love: Contemplative Words of Robert Lax, edited by Georgiou, and new poems (1962-1997), edited by Beer.  This is a rare opportunity to hear three of Lax’s friends talk about his life and the time they spent with him in Greece.

Five days later, on February 16, McGregor will do a solo reading from Pure Act at Pegasus Books in Berkeley.

Here are the details:

Thursday, February 11, 2016–7 p.m.–A Celebration of Robert Lax, with biographer Michael N. McGregor, poet John Beer, and author S. T. Georgiou, City Lights Books, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, February 16, 2016–7:30 p.m.–Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA