Friday, October 16, 2015

An Artist's Life of Humility, Simplicity and Poverty

Lax on the overgrown grounds of L'Eau Vive, near Paris where he lived in the 1950s.
Courtesy of the Robert Lax Literary Trust, from the Robert Lax Collection at Columbia University

Michael N. McGregor's book, Pure Act - the Uncommon life of Robert Lax, is good.

I am a long time reader of American poet, Robert Lax, I loved him from the first poem that I read. Not just his writing, but him, even though I knew very little about his life.

Lax is not just a person, but also a Way. His life is Prayer. Readers of Lax somehow know that what Lax is doing with his life is not distinct from his art. As his writings become more and more sparse we sense that his life is also becoming more pure. Less distracted. More honest. More spontaneous and authentic.

The little that we know about Lax's life itself we gather from his journals or what other people say about him. We know that he was odd, different, but in a way that was special and not weird. People liked Lax and liked to be around him. Mothers left their children with him.

McGregor explores this oddness and gives us many details to consider and mull over. We get the inner story as well as the outer one. We can no longer idealize Lax as Lax, himself, idealized the Greek people on the islands he called home. Lax becomes a human being and his world become much more like our own flawed and mysterious one. We see the way he struggles with the cold, with finding a place to live, with finding money.

Through Pure Act we can watch Lax as he finds his way. His journal is his journey. He pays attention. Lax is always listening, always watching, waiting, and reaches deep places of awareness. His writing becomes those precisely chosen notes that can awaken us as well.

Thank you, Michael McGregor, for taking the time to write this book so well.


  1. Beth, I've read and enjoyed and will return to McGregor's book and recommend it to all of us who love Robert Lax and his writing and his life. I hope he comes to nearby St Bonaventure U to read. A good photo; the door and windows remind me of his poems.

  2. Me too. It is the best book about Lax out there, in my opinion. McGregor did a very good job.

    I have more to this posting -- it formatted funny when I first put it up so I have to re-type the whole thing.

  3. 2Cents _______________________

    good ztuff
    blessings __________________________

  4. 2thanks ----------------

    some times stuff is just a drag

    its a problem with the human condition

    there is suffering - amen

    this poor turkey i am eating taste very good

    poor bird lost her head ,o my !!!

    blessings -----------------------------------------



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