Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"... He is not waiting for anything. He is there."

From 1993 to 1999, two uncommon film-makers, Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel, spent several weeks every year with Robert Lax on Patmos where they developed a long-standing friendship with the poet and collaborated with him on several film projects.  I have no doubt that Lax, who wrote screenplays in his earlier years, was as much a part of the creative endeavor as the men who held the cameras.  A large amount of video commentary about Lax was accumulated.

There is no commentary in these films, nor is there any story.  It is just the present.

In an essay, “A Window on the Word”, Michael Philipp describes Three Windows: Hommage a Robert Lax,  a video installation produced by Humbert and Penzel after Lax's death, which attempts to approach a way of life and a philosophy with visual and aural media. 

Here are a few quotes from that essay:
"He does not hurry and bustle about, his activity is not purposeful or directed towards some end, but concentrates on what can be grasped in daily life.  He has no commission to carry out, no deadline to meet, no plan to observe.  His creative will is confined to the construction or words.  He has the equilibrium of the well-informed, the peace of experience, the composure of a man who has arrived, even when he is in a train or on a ferry.  He misses nothing.  He is not waiting for anything.  He is there."
"We see the simple life of his hermitage, the loner’s withdrawal from the world, the outsider’s retreat , monastic, Spartan, clear-cut, yet it is also a world that can be symbolically surveyed.  The symbols of everyday life, concrete, unspectacular, objective: a hat tilted at an angle on the back of the chair; a stick leaning against the door; a spoon on the table - the life of objects and life lived with those objects, the immediacy of handling them."
"Beside and in front of the symbols of the phenomena that become metaphors in the film stands the direct, the immediate and elementary: sea, house, mountain, bay - images like concepts: they show something, they explain nothing.  They show what is ordinary, just as what is said is what is meant; there are no abstractions in these images or in the text, nothing sensational, nothing didactic, no secret.  The only revelation is that life is the message, poetry is its medium, the word that was in the beginning is its element."
"The poet speaks: not to the camera, he does not need the camera.  Nor does it trouble him either, he simply ignores it.  It accompanies him - unobtrusively but intensively - not he lives without it.  The poet speaks to himself, but he does not speak of himself; he speaks of the world, his world.  He confesses to no belief, he is an observer; he does not describe, he names.  His poems are short, clear, pointed; they are polar rather than dialectical, their subtlety does not lie in synthesis; they link opposites without neutralizing them, they create relationships:
from a



  1. he's an suitable poet 4 a txtN gNR8N

  2. Hello Beth!

    This post is really good. The pictures of Lax are haunting. What is he dreaming?

    ** I attended Holy Mass this morning at Corpus Christi Church in NYC. It is as beautiful as Merton described. I posted a few pics on my blog.

    God bless!

  3. Those are great photos, Brian! And the quotes that go along with them really give you a feel for Merton's world. THanks!

    I think that Lax is asleep in the photo. In his writings he intimates that his consciousness moves from dreams to waking seamlessly. I get the sense that he likes to dwell in the place where one has a foot in both worlds :-) ... I'm hoping to get over to the archives in Olean soon - I'm spending the next few months just north of Pittsburgh, and my sister lives near Olean so I need to get over there! My interest in Lax goes right along with Merton, they're not separate subjects for me.



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