Ever generation of poets seems to harbor its own hidden genius, one whose stature and brilliance come to light after his talent has already been achieved and exercised. The same drama of obscurity and nuance that attended the discovery of Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens is suggested by the career of Robert Lax. An expatriate American whose work to date — more than forty books — has been published mostly in Europe, this 85-year-old poet built a following in the U.S. among figures as widespread as Mark Van Doren, e. e. cummings, Jack Kerouac, and Sun Ra. The works in Love Had a Compass represent every stage of Lax's development as a poet, from his early years in the 1940s as a staff writer for The New Yorker to his present life on the Greek Island of Patmos. An inveterate wanderer, Lax's own sense of himself as both exile and pilgrim is carefully evoked in his prose journals and informs the pages of the Marseille Diaries, published here for the first time. Together with the poems, they provide the best portrait available to date of one of the most striking and original poets of our age.
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Lax is a somewhat legendary poet known primarily for two reasons: he traveled in a circle in the 1930s that included Thomas Merton, John Berryman, Robert Giroux and Ad Reinhardt; and he has lived and written on the Greek island of Patmos since the early 1960s. This combination of famous friendships and personal obscurity has added heat to his reputation but not much light?his poetry has been obscured by his myth. This volume, however, will likely introduce Lax's considerable poetic power to a wider audience. Uebbing's introduction captures the essence of Lax's work: "A simple response to a simple moment"; "much of his work is almost devoid of imagery." Lax's early poems are a mix of emotionality ("for we must seek/ by going down,/ down into the city/ for our song") and formal experimentation ("black/ black/ white/ white/ black/ black/ white/ white"). But his finest work can be seen in the previously unpublished sequence of poems, Port City: The Marseille Diaries. Drawing on the people and places he encountered during an extended, down-and-out time in the city during the 1950s, in "Port City" Lax finally declares his mission: "I will sing you/ of the moments/ sing you/ of those/ possibly/ meaningless moments."
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The elusive Lax was a friend of the religious writer and fellow Catholic convert Thomas Merton (1915^-68). Instead of the stream of American publications that kept Merton before the public despite becoming a Trappist monk, Lax opted to roam Mediterranean Europe, live among poor working people (he settled on the Greek island Patmos), and produce some of the sparest imagist poetry in English with no thought about publishing where the literary high and mighty would read him. Lax dispenses with metaphor and largely with ego (in the occasional concrete poem, even with syntax) to present what he sees with elemental forcefulness, as if in strong Mediterranean sunlight. Furthermore, because Lax's vocabulary is biblically small and biblically allusive, individual poems register as prayers and, more often, mystical visions, albeit Lax's visions are of things anyone would see were they in his shoes. To occupy those shoes via his poems (even the journal excerpted here has much verse in it) is to have the lenses of perception cleansed and to see earth, sea, and sky as if newly made. Ray Olson
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Descrizione libro Grove Press 1996-05-17, 1996. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. 1st. 080211587X. Codice libro della libreria 627163
Descrizione libro Grove Press, 1996. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Codice libro della libreria P11080211587X