Monday, June 14

Poetry as Prayer with Robert Lax

Everything that exists

can turn to prayer;

even the water,

even the air.

- Robert Lax
A Song For Our Lady

If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, you'll likely have to link through to view the video recitation by Robert Lax.

"And in the beginning was love. Love made a sphere:
all things grew within it; the sphere then encompassed
beginnings and endings, beginning and end. Love
had a compass whose whirling dance traced out a
sphere of love in the void: in the center thereof
rose a fountain."

- Robert Lax
from his renown poem, Circus in the Sun (about the circus of creation), it was read at Lax's funeral

Robert Lax was an American poet who converted to Catholicism from Judaism. He has been called "saint," "prophet," and "one of the great enigmas of American poetry." In addition to his poetry, he is know for his friendship with the writer, poet and Trapist monk, Thomas Merton, also a convert to Catholicism.  Lax went to school with John Berryman and was mentor to Jack Kerouac. He was friends with and appreciated by the Beats and one of my fave writers, James Agee (A Death in the Family and - with photographer Walker Evans - Let Us Now Praise Men). Denise Levertove and e.e. commings numbered among his friends as well.

Lax lived or thirty-five years as a hermit on the island of Patmos, Greece, seen by many as a sacred space. It is the alleged site of the vision and writing of the Christian Bible's Book of Revelation. Because of that connection the island has a history as a destination for Christian pilgrimage. Although Robert Lax lived quietly in Patmos and did nothing to promote his poetry or himself, people - including the Beats and other poets - came to visit him. He always welcomed them.

If poetry as prayer is a topic of interest, you could do worse than explore Lax's life and work. A light read and good introduction to this poet is The Way of the Dreamcatcher: Spirit Lessons with Robert Lax.  It was written by San Francisco writer, S.T. Georgiou (Greek Orthodox), who went to Patmos in search of spiritual answers. As good fortune would have it, he met Robert Lax, became friends with him and visited often with him on several trips back to the island.  Subsequently, after Lax's death, Georgiou wrote The Way of the Dreamcatcher, a book about this a great adventure in friendship, mentoring, the sacred and poetry.

- Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day)

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