Robert Lax (1925 Orlean, New York, USA—2000 Orlean) was an American poet. While studying at Columbia University in New York City he met Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, poet, and acclaimed theologian, who would become a lifelong friend. Ed Rice, Richard Kostelanetz, Mark Van Doren, and Jack Kerouac, were also friends of Lax’s, remembering him as a pensive mentor and poet of exceptional sensitivity. After graduating in 1938, Lax first worked as an editor, later turning to teaching, charity, and writing screenplays. Converting from Judaism to Christianity in 1943, Lax began to search for a more authentic and humbler dimension of living. He first moved to Canada, following the Cristiani Brothers circus troupe, often participating as a juggler. Lax moved to Greece in the 1960 eventually settling on the island of Patmos in peaceful solitude and spiritual clarity. Lax’s poetry gradually became more minimal, presenting a few words and their variations in a narrow vertical column down the page, as in 33 Poems (1988). His work was consequently placed alongside concrete poetry, and he subsequently became recognized as one of its leading exponents. Embracing a contemplative life uninterested in career and notoriety, most of Lax’s compositions remain unpublished today. In 1969, he received the National Council of the Arts Award and is the main subject of the film Why Should I Buy a Bed When All I Want Is Sleep? (1999) by Nicolas Hubert and Werner Penzel. Archives of his papers are preserved at St. Bonaventure University, Columbia University, and Georgetown University.

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